Pubdate: Mon, 12 Apr 2010
Source: Daily Lobo (U of NM, Edu, NM)
Copyright: 2010 Daily Lobo
Author: Geoff St. John



I'm a member of UNM's chapter of Students for Sensible  Drug Policy, 
and as such, it's one of my primary  objectives to adequately inform 
students and faculty  about the issues of drugs, the laws surrounding 
them  and their impact on our world.

It makes sense that New Mexico has a drug problem. Our  high poverty 
levels, proximity to Mexico and  significant minority populations are 
important factors  that make New Mexico particularly susceptible to 
the  negative effects of the illegal drug trade.

But it's comforting to know that New Mexico hasn't been  passive 
about taking care of the problem. In fact, our  state is a national 
beacon for drug reform.

New Mexico was the first state to pass a 911 Good  Samaritan Law. In 
response to one of the highest rates  of death by drug overdose in 
the country, legislators  passed this essential law that gives a 
person immunity  from drug possession charges when calling 911 
for  medical assistance. This redirects government priority  from law 
enforcement to saving lives. (Disclaimer: This  law does not apply on 
campus due to UNM's  zero-tolerance policy.)

The New Mexico Department of Health's Harm Reduction  Program is one 
of the most comprehensive and effective  initiatives for 
injection-drug users in America. The  program provides for syringe 
exchange to reduce the  spread of hepatitis and HIV, educates drug 
users about  potential risks and consequences of their actions and 
acts as a conduit for treatment and prevention  services.

The state legislature is currently working to pass two  bills that 
will further enable successful drug reform:  "ban the box" 
legislation, which will remove the box on  public job applications 
that asks if a person has a
criminal conviction, and the Substance Abuse and Crime  Prevention 
Act, which will allow for drug addicts to  receive treatment instead 
of being incarcerated.

New Mexico's medical cannabis program model is one of  the most 
imitated in current drug reform legislation in  other states and is 
likely to set the standard for  government-licensed dispensaries at a 
national level.

In addition, the state commissioned an in-depth study  and analysis 
of the effects of drugs in New Mexico.  This study will report its 
findings at the end of the  year and will offer further suggestions 
for future  reform.

New Mexico is on the right path toward sensible drug  policy, but 
it's not there yet. Further legislation  will require a solid 
foundation of supporters with a  variety of skills. Why not make that 
foundation the University of New Mexico?

Geoff St. John
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart