Pubdate: Wed, 14 Mar 2007
Source: Alamogordo Daily News (NM)
Copyright: 2007 Alamogordo Daily News
Author: Diana M. Alba, Santa Fe Bureau
Note: The new bill, SB523 Medical Marijuana Act is at
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


SANTA FE -- In a reversal of a decision last week, the House approved 
a measure Tuesday to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes.

The House, on a 35-25 vote, passed a Senate bill that will allow 
patients to seek approval from the state to use marijuana to treat 
certain diseases. Thursday, the House on a 33-36 vote objected to a 
similar proposal.

Gov. Bill Richardson had said earlier in the day Tuesday he was 
working on House members to get them to reconsider their vote.

Legislators repeated several arguments that were made last week.

Supporters of the measure maintained that medical marijuana use will 
help ease pain among sufferers of certain diseases, while opponents 
contended an approval will give children the impression lawmakers 
support illegal drug use.

Rep. John Heaton, D-Carlsbad, a pharmacist, said medical benefits of 
marijuana are limited, and the drug could worsen some medical problems.

"That it has all this wonderful relief is not true," he said. "It's a 
weak anti-nauseant; there are much better products on the market. 
It's a very weak pain killer."

But bill proponent Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said 
there's evidence from studies that marijuana can aid ill patients.

"If it does have detrimental side effects, it may have far exceeding 
benefits," he said.

Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said by approving the bill the 
Legislature sends the message it's giving tacit approval to 
narcotics, when the state has a drug abuse problem.

"I think that's the wrong message," he said.

Other lawmakers, including Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, said the 
Legislature's approval won't prompt drug use among children.

"I'm not worried about the message we're sending our children, 
because we have a lot of dangerous pharmaceuticals that are 
prescribed by physicians," she said. "Because those are legal, we're 
not telling our children it's OK to use them."

Conditions that would be treatable with marijuana under the bill 
include cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, 
epilepsy and AIDs. Patients would have had to seek approval from the 
state and carry a registration card in order to use medical marijuana.

Rep. Manuel Herrera, D-Bayard, said he'd never consider marijuana as 
a treatment, despite having survived five bouts with cancer.

"I've never had to take marijuana for pain," he said. "I have 
grandkids ' and I'm not going to fill up my office or my home with 
marijuana smoke."

Rep. Teresa Zanetti, R-Albuquerque, said she opposed the measure 
because there isn't strong evidence that marijuana is a useful medication.

"We've heard some very compelling stories, but we shouldn't make 
policy based on emotion," she said.

Maestas said that wasn't his motivation for supporting the legislation.

"I didn't do it because of emotionalism but because it seemed 
reasonable to me," he said.

Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque, a bill opponent, attached an 
amendment to the measure that would keep marijuana for medical 
purposes from being distributed near schools. Other attempts to 
change the bill such as attaching a condition that it wouldn't become 
effective until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves 
marijuana as a drug were rejected by the House.

The state Health Department is tasked with setting up rules for 
medical marijuana use, according to the bill.

The measure is Senate Finance Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 523.

Because the bill was amended by the House, it must return to the 
Senate for approval. After that, Richardson must sign it for it to become law.

Thursday's Votes

Nathan Cote, yes; Gloria Vaughn, no; Dub Williams, yes; Nora 
Espinoza, no; Daniel Foley, yes; William Gray, no.

Tuesday's Votes

Nathan Cote, yes; Gloria Vaughn, no; Dub Williams, yes; Nora 
Espinoza, no; Daniel Foley, yes; William Gray, yes. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake