Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Bill Wins Senate Committee Approval 1/27/06

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A medical marijuana bill Gov. Bill Richardson (D) said last week he wants to see pass during the New Mexico legislature's off-year short session won approval Tuesday by the first of three Senate committees scheduled to vote on it. Senate Bill 258, the Lynn Pierson Compassionate Use Act won unanimous backing from the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

The bill would allow patients with debilitating illnesses or conditions to use medical marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. It would set up a program within the state Department of Health and provide registration cards for patients. Patients or care-givers could grow their own supply.

Gov. Richardson again endorsed the bill Tuesday, telling reporters a "substantial portion" of the public agrees. "I think there have got to be strict standards," he said. "But for those who are suffering... I support it."

While the bill has the support of the governor, drug reformers, and patients' advocates, it is opposed by the usual suspects: prosecutors and law enforcement groups. "The bottom line for us is it's still against federal law," Eighth Judicial District (Taos) District Attorney Donald Gallegos told the committee.

That didn't hold much water with patients like Essie DeBonet, 61, an AIDS patient who said marijuana helps her fight nausea induced by her other medications. "Having to choose between staying alive and obeying the law is a horrible, horrible decision that no one should be forced to face," she told the committee.

If the bill passes, New Mexico will become the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana. Last year, the bill was approved by the Senate and in committee votes in the House before dying in an unrelated political squabble between the bill's sponsor and another powerful legislator. The legislative short session, which is devoted in the main to state budget matters, ends February 16.

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Issue #420 -- 1/27/06

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Feature: San Diego Politicos and Activists Face Off Over Medical Marijuana | Feature: Study Claiming Methamphetamine is Overrunning Hospital Emergency Rooms Fails to Withstand Scrutiny | Feature: Medical Marijuana Refugee Steve Kubby Expelled From Canada, Faces Life Threatening Jail Sentence in California | Feature: On the Occasion of our 420th Issue, We Look at 4:20 | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Europe: Ireland to Start "Cautioning" Marijuana Users -- No, Wait a Minute, We Changed Our Mind | Europe: British to Review Drug Classification Scheme | South Asia: Indian Farmers, Maoists Team Up in Opium Trade | Australia: Green Party Takes a Step Back on Drug Policy | Electoral Politics: Nationally Known Drug Reformer Seeks Green Party Gubernatorial Nomination in Connecticut | Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Bill Wins Senate Committee Approval | Weekly: This Week in History | Job Opportunities, MPP in DC and Nevada | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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