Medical Marijuana Bill Clears Critical Hurdle in Passing the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee by 5 to 2

Press Release February 23, 2007
Media Contact

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798 or Julie Roberts at (505) 983-3277

Santa Fe–The House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee passed the Lynn and Erin Compassionate use Act (SB 238) this evening on a motion to “pass without recommendation” by a 5 to 2 margin. The bill would allow qualified patients suffering from certain illnesses, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy, to use medical cannabis for relief of their symptoms.

The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee, which could vote on the measure as soon as Monday.

Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-District 12, sponsor of the bill, emphasized the restrictions of SB 238 in comparison to other state medical marijuana laws. Dr. Steve Jenison, Medical Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau of the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH), spoke in support of the measure. “We believe there is credible evidence that marijuana can significantly relieve pain and suffering,” Dr. Jenison said during his testimony.

A representative of the Association of District Attorneys, Richard Flores, said the bill was “one of the more difficult bills we stand in opposition to.”

Testimony was heard from a range of bill supporters, including the New Mexico Nurses Association, Former New Mexico Governor Jerry Apodaca, Mrs. Patty Jennings, and a number of patient advocates. Those speaking in opposition to the bill included the Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and law enforcement representatives.

With little debate the committee voted to pass the bill “without recommendation” to its next Committee, the House Judiciary Committee.

“This was a critical step toward providing relief and legal protection for New Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens — the sick and dying,” said Reena Szczepanski, Director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “I am thrilled that the members of the committee recognize the importance of this bill to New Mexicans, and we look forward to our next steps: a vote in House Judiciary Committee, and the House floor vote.”

A similar measure enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support last year and sailed through the Senate by a 34-6 margin. Gov. Richardson voiced strong support for the measure during last year’s legislative session. But the bill died in the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee after passing in the House Judiciary Committee in the early hours of the morning of the final legislative day.

Please call Reena Szczepanski at 505-699-0798 or Julie Roberts at 505-983-3277 for the latest information on committee hearings.

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

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