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Easy panel passage gives hope for supporters

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Yet again, a medical marijuana bill has sailed through a Senate committee, creating a sense of hope for those who want New Mexico to become the 12th state to allow patients to use the mind-altering herb for the relief of pain and nausea under doctor supervision.

An estimated 50 to 200 patients, with conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and AIDS, would benefit, proponents said.

On Thursday, supporters were outwardly elated after the unanimous vote in the Senate Public Affairs Committee, but more cautious in private. For the past two years, a nearly identical bill found favor in the Senate, then stalled in the House. Last year the initiative even won Gov. Bill Richardson's public backing, but ultimately died in the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee.

No one is sure where the governor stands now that he has his eye on the White House. His spokesmen did not return calls for comment.

The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act would give authority over the supply and distribution of marijuana to the Health Department. Yet during the hearing, Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham and Human Services Secretary Pamela Hyde sat in silence. Last year, in the same hearing they endorsed it.

Chris Minnick, a spokesman for the Health Department, said afterward, "We neither support nor oppose the bill" because the agency isn't carrying it.

Erin Armstrong, whose name is on this year's bill, says she is keeping an optimistic outlook.

"The lesson of last year is we do have the support to get this through. We just need the time," she said.

The 25-year-old Santa Fe native, who has thyroid cancer, sat in the front row during the hearing, next to her mother, Aging Department Secretary Deborah Armstrong.

Because marijuana is an illegal substance in the United States, patients who used it would take a "calculated risk," said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, part of a dues-paying national group that's lobbying for it. The bill cannot shield patients, doctors, growers or others involved in the process from the risk of federal prosecution. It would only protect them from prosecution under state laws, she said.

If a doctor recommended marijuana for a patient, an application would be filed with the state Health Department, which would determine the proper dosage. The patient would carry a special card.

As usual, law enforcement groups spoke against the bill, citing the conflict with federal law. District Attorney Donald Gallegos, who serves Taos, Union and Colfax counties, said Senate Bill 238 contained one important change: Licensed producers selected by the Health Department would grow and distribute the marijuana. Before, New Mexico State University was slated for the job, which would have put public employees "in a heck of a dilemma," he said.

But he's still concerned about people selling the drug on the side or getting high it when they are not sick. The bill says people who use it fraudulently would face a petty misdemeanor, and licensed producers who give it to people not approved by the Health Department could face criminal or civil penalties.

For the first time, Patty Jennings, the wife of Sen. Timothy Jennings, D-Roswell, made her case. Last October her breast cancer spread to her lungs. "It's a terrific option," she said.

Cancer patients need more options, she said, because what works and what is compatible with other medications changes constantly.

Jennings, 51, said she isn't worried that her five children would get the wrong idea if she smoked state-approved pot. "I have 200 morphine pills in a bottle in my purse all the time, and they know it's a whole lot more dangerous than a marijuana cigarette," she said.



New Member
That womans situation reminds me of the one my father was in explaining to his baptist family he had no other choice but to smoke MJ. He had stomache cancer, in the short of it killed him in 2.5 years. During which time he carried large qtys of. . .well lets just say popuar hardcore perscription drugs, just so I don't have to get into that. Anyway, nothing worked for pain long term and he had no appetite at all. . .unless he smoked. My family looks at me with disgust mostly because I was the one who made him aware of that option. And then ultimatly supplied it too him. It kills me that the perception of MJ is such that someone has to have died painfully for this countries attention to Medical MJ. And it still is begrudgingly (sp?) at best when the bills pass. woof. . . . :peace:
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