Medical Marijuana Advocates Urge State to Heed Legislation

Press Release August 14, 2007
Media Contact

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798</p>

Advocates expressed disappointment with a statement issued today by New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) Secretary, Alfredo Vigil, who asserted that NMDOH will not distribute or produce medical marijuana for seriously ill patients who qualify under the 2007 Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act.

"Although I am pleased that the Department of Health will continue to certify seriously ill patients under the program, I hope that the department is not prematurely abandoning an important part of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act," said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. "The law requires the department to regulate the production and distribution of medical cannabis — but it does not require state employees to produce and distribute the medicine themselves. I hope that the department is not closing the door to production and distribution entirely. It's the right thing to do for the patients, and it should remain the program's ultimate goal."

During debate in the 2007 Legislative Session, legislators frequently highlighted the provisions for state licensed production and distribution as a hallmark of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. Dr. Vigil's statement came in response to a letter from the Attorney General, which stood in grave contrast to statements over the last few years from the majority of Attorneys General from states with medical marijuana laws. A letter issued by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer in 2005 concluded that the federal government could not bring criminal charges against state employees who issued ID cards and maintained the patient registry. The letter cited federalism arguments and found that these activities do not satisfy the elements of a federal crime.

"The Department of Health has been proceeding in a careful and deliberate manner with the Medical Cannabis Program. Its employees deserve support and through guidance in return. They didn't get that from that letter. I urge the Attorney General to provide more meaningful legal direction to the department," said Szczepanski.

In over a decade of medical marijuana laws, no state employee has ever been federally prosecuted for implementing state medical marijuana laws. New Mexico is the twelfth state to endorse the use of medical cannabis and the fourth state legislature to enact such a measure.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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