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Gov. Gary Johnson's proposal to legalize medical marijuana died in a Senate
committee Friday, and its sponsor said it's unlikely to be revived.

"We don't have the time," said Sen. Roman Maes, D-Santa Fe.

The 30-day legislative session ends Thursday. The measure died in the
Judiciary Committee on a tie vote, with opponents objecting that it would
conflict with federal law and expose New Mexicans to federal prosecution.

The bill would have required the Health Department to create a program
under which qualified patients could use marijuana to relieve pain or other
symptoms of their debilitating illnesses, including cancer, AIDS and glaucoma.

"The people who will use this in its intended way are going to die, and
they're going to die soon," said Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque. "I
think it comes down to mercy and to individual freedom."

A year ago, the same bill passed the same committee and was approved by the
full Senate. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court barred a private group in
California from distributing medical marijuana.

And the administrator of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration said
in a recent letter that the bill authorized activities that would be
contrary to federal law.

Marijuana for medical use would have to be grown, distributed and possessed
in violation of federal law, said DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson.

Clifford Rees, assistant general counsel for the Health Department, said it
was "very unlikely private patients will be prosecuted by the federal

The bill required the department to decide where to obtain the marijuana
and how it would be dispensed to patients.

The office of Attorney General Patricia Madrid said in its analysis of the
legislation that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling did not address the
production and distribution of marijuana by a state.

New Mexico could argue that Congress did not have the authority under the
federal Commerce Clause to regulate that conduct, the attorney general also

"I don't think the Legislature ... ought to be enacting laws to provide
test cases," Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque, said.

Another opponent, Sen. Ramsay Gorham, R-Albuquerque, complained there were
no firm projections of how much the program would cost.

The Johnson administration is asking lawmakers to cut Medicaid for children
to save money, but "suddenly has money to fund a pot farm," she said.

Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales, a doctor, said the bill would "give
physicians one more tool to help patients."

Komadina voted for the bill, along with McSorley and Sens. Manny Aragon,
D-Albuquerque; Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque; and Richard Martinez, D-Espanola.

Voting against it were Payne; Gorham; Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael
Sanchez, D-Belen; Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales; and Sen. Lidio Rainaldi,

Newshawk: Cannabis News - marijuana, hemp, and cannabis news
Pubdate: Sat, 09 Feb 2002
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)
Copyright: 2002 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Contact: letters@sfnewmexican.com
Website: santafenewmexican.com | News, opinion and sports from Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Deborah Baker, The Associated Press
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