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Hearing Planned On Medical Marijuana

Cozmo

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Since the state's medical-marijuana law took effect in July, 50 patients with debilitating health conditions have received permission to grow, possess and use this otherwise illegal drug.

"They're very, very sick people,'' said Dr. Steve Jenison, the program's medical director at the Health Department, who is pleased the law isn't being used as it has been in some other states.

The patients carry special identification cards and have protection from prosecution under state, but not federal, law. Their identity is kept secret, unless a member of law enforcement calls the Health Department to verify whether a person is on the registry.

The Health Department, which administers the program, is taking steps to formalize rules that govern the patient registry and the medical advisory board, a group of eight physicians that oversees the program.

On Monday in Santa Fe, the public can express its views at a hearing about two proposed rules.

One proposal concerns the patient identification card system. Under a temporary provision, patients and caregivers approved by the state have been allowed to possess up to 6 ounces of marijuana, four hemp plants and three seedlings -- what the Health Department describes as a three-month supply.

The proposed rule would change that to 6 ounces of marijuana, four hemp plants and four seedlings, Jenison said.

The other rule concerns the medical advisory board. Under this rule, the board would have the power to review petitions from people who want to use marijuana as medicine but don't have one of the physical conditions described in the law. The board would have the power to approve other conditions, although the health secretary would have the final say.

Currently, qualifying conditions are cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with intractable spasticity, epilepsy and HIV/AIDS. Hospice-care patients with a terminal illness also are listed in the statute.

At this time, the Health Department has not worked out a state-sanctioned, secure production and distribution system, as outlined in the second phase of the law. Currently, patients must obtain marijuana through the black market.

The Health Department's attorneys are researching possible ways to give patients access to a regulated marijuana product, but this is territory where no state has gone before. Even though 12 states now have medical-marijuana laws, the controlled substance is not recognized on the federal level as a medicine.

Erin Armstrong, who has thyroid cancer, lobbied for New Mexico's medical-marijuana law for years and continues to watch over its implementation. She now lives in San Francisco, but she plans to attend Monday's public hearing.

``I think there's still work to be done,'' said the 26-year-old activist, whose mother is cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department.

She wants the program to be patient-centered and health-oriented. Part of that means providing a safe supply of marijuana that is of consistent quality, she said. ``That's what makes the program unique,'' she said.

Armstrong also said the state could do a better job of informing patients about the legal privileges and limitations of the program. She was alarmed to hear the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, on a tip, raided the home of a medical-marijuana patient in southeastern New Mexico.

Although Armstrong has suffered from chronic nausea in the past, she said her symptoms have quieted down and she doesn't use medical marijuana.

For more information about the Medical Cannabis Program, visit New Mexico Department of Health Home Page or call 827-2321.


News Moderator: CoZmO - 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: The New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM)
Author: Diana Del Mauro
Contact: dianadm@sfnewmexican.com
Copyright: 2007 The New Mexican, Inc.
Website: Hearing planned on medical marijuana
 
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