Press Release  | 03/09/2011

House Bill Threatening to End New Mexico's Medical Marijuana Program will Not Advance

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Bill's Sponsor Pulls Legislation in Lieu of a Memorial to Study Program's Effectiveness

Santa Fe - Today, freshman Representative Jim Smith confirmed he will be pulling his legislation to end New Mexico's Medical Marijuana Program. House Bill 593 was scheduled for debate in the House of Representative's Consumer and Public Affairs Committee this Saturday. Instead, he has introduced a memorial to study the effectiveness of the program.

"Seriously ill and vulnerable New Mexicans can breathe a sigh of relief today," said Emily Kaltenbach, State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico. "We will continue to fight to protect thousands of sick New Mexican's legal right to the most appropriate medication to relieve their symptoms and suffering."

The Drug Policy Alliance mobilized over 500 supporters who contacted House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee members asking them to vote no on House Bill 593.

New Mexico's vital Medical Marijuana Program is serving close to 4,000 patients diagnosed with serious illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, Lou Gehrig's disease, and epilepsy.

Representative Smith has stated that he believes there are alternative medications to medical marijuana. However, Marinol, an alternative medication, is not a viable solution for many patients. Research has shown that Marinol is often poorly absorbed and the dosage is hard to monitor and control. For most patients, medical marijuana has fewer side effects than other heavy pain and nausea medications. Thousands of studies have proven that medical marijuana is safe and effective.

New Mexico's medical marijuana program is one of the most tightly run programs in the country and has helped thousands. Repealing the New Mexico Medical Cannabis legislation would have had a devastating impact on New Mexico's patients, economy and state budget. If passed, House Bill 593 would have negatively impacted New Mexico by eliminating access to appropriate medication by 3,779 patients, eliminating approximately 100 jobs in the small business/non-profit producing sector, and decreasing Department of Health's budget by $300,000 as a result of decreased revenue collected from renewal fees of licensed producers.

A New Mexico Drug Policy Reform study found 81% of New Mexico voters support making medical marijuana available to seriously or terminally ill patients in order to reduce their pain and suffering.

New Mexico was the first state to establish a state-licensed medical marijuana distribution system. New Mexico passed its medical cannabis bill in early 2007 with overwhelming bi-partisan legislative support, including a Senate vote of 32 – 3. The program is a model for the rest of the country.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

Emily Kaltenbach at 505-920-5256 or Tony Newman at 646-335-5384

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