Medical marijuana bill back on floor

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

After initial efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill in the state Legislature were shot down in the House last week, the issue is back at the urging of the governor.

A substitute bill for the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act passed the Senate 32-3 late last week and cleared the House Judiciary Committee Monday, with a 10-3 vote. It now heads to the House floor.

The substitute bill includes language that would allow for topical use of cannabis (medical marijuana) in the form of patches, ointments, and suppositories, according to a press release issued by the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico .

“We’re excited about the possibility of the bill getting a House floor vote, said Reena Szczepanski, director of the alliance. This is an important issue to New Mexicans and it deserves a fair hearing on the House floor.”

First introduced during the 2006 Legislature, the measure is designed to help people who have medical conditions that cause pain, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and AIDS, said Szczepanski.

Designed to prescribe the marijuana in a controlled restrictive environment, supporters of the bill feel patients who are ill should not have to suffer the fear of what other citizens, not faced with a terminally ill family member or friend, may say or do, Szczepanski said.

District Attorney Matthew Chandler opposes the bill and questions the necessity of using legalized drugs versus prescribed narcotics, such as morphine. Chandler went on to state that there is no evidence or research indicating the helpfulness of marijuana for terminally ill patients.

“Law enforcement is concerned where you draw the line. It becomes a slippery slope,” he said.

Rep. Keith J. Gardner, R-Roswell, is supportive of the bill as it is written. With it’s strict regulations, it has a low margin for error, he said.

“The truth is, it’s very controlled, unlike other states,” Gardner said.

Opposed to other legalized drug bills, Gardner feels this one is a necessity for those suffering from a terminal illnesses.

“If it could help alleviate pain, why can’t it be a law?”, Gardner said.

The original bill was killed by a 36-33 margin in the House after passing 34-7 in the Senate.