HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Medical-Marijuana Bill Finds Support, Moves Forward
Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jan 2006
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2006 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Steve Terrell, The New Mexican
Note: The text of the bill, SB 258 Lynn Pierson Compassionate Use Act
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A bill that would legalize medical marijuana cleared its first hurdle 
Tuesday, getting a unanimous, bipartisan "do-pass" recommendation 
from the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

Senate Bill 258 would allow patients with debilitating medical 
conditions, including cancer and AIDS, to use marijuana to treat 
their symptoms -- and in some cases the side effects of treatment for 
those diseases.

The state Department of Health would administer a program under which 
doctors would be allowed to recommend marijuana for their patients. 
The marijuana used in the program would be grown in a secure facility 
by the state or a private agency contracting with the state.

The committee heard from patients who say medical marijuana would 
ease their suffering. Fred McDonald, 45, who has multiple sclerosis, 
said he splits his time between New Mexico and Washington state. "My 
doctors in Washington treat me with medical marijuana," he said. "But 
when I come here, it's illegal."

Essie DeBonet, 61, an AIDS sufferer who has lobbied two years for a 
medical marijuana bill, said: "Nobody should have to choose between 
breaking the law and staying alive."

Also asking the committee to recommend the bill was cancer patient 
Erin Armstrong, the 24-year-old daughter of state Aging and Long-Term 
Services secretary Debbie Armstrong.

Debbie Armstrong was one of three of Gov. Bill Richardson's cabinet 
members at the committee hearing.

Human Services Secretary Pam Hyde told the committee, "It's time we 
sent a message to the federal government."

Health Secretary Michelle Grisham-Lujan told the panel that it would 
not be difficult to set up a program in her department to oversee 
medical marijuana.

But one Richardson cabinet secretary not at the hearing was state 
Public Safety Secretary John Denko. During his tenure as Santa Fe 
police chief, Denko had testified in legislative hearings against 
previous medical-marijuana bills.

The only opponents to testify Tuesday were from the law-enforcement community.

Taos District Attorney Donald Gallegos predicted the bill would run 
afoul of federal law if the Legislature passes it.

But state Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales, who is a doctor, said the 
bill has tight safeguards. He said the bill provides stricter 
controls on marijuana than current law does on much stronger and 
addictive drugs such as codeine and OxyContin.

The bill goes on to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
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