Medical Marijuana Bill Clears House of Representatives; Bill Now One Step Away from Gov. Richardson

Press Release March 12, 2007
Media Contact

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798 or Tommy McDonald at (505)983-3277

The New Mexico House of Representatives passed the Senate substitute bill for SB 523, the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act by a 36-31 margin today. 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.

During debate, the bill was amended, requiring it to go back to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved. Last week, the Senate endorsed the measure by a 32-3 margin.

Once the Senate approves the amended bill, which would prevent the distribution of medical cannabis within 300 feet of a school, the bill will go to Gov. Bill Richardson desk for his signature. Once signed, New Mexico will become the twelfth state to endorse the use of medical cannabis and only the fourth state Legislature to enact such a measure.

Richardson has voiced his strong support for the bill and has indicated he will sign it once approved by the Legislature.

“We are thrilled to have gotten past this hurdle and finally seeing this come to fruition,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “The will of the people of New Mexico has been validated by the Legislature and for that, we are grateful.

“On behalf of patients in New Mexico, I want to thank the Governor for his unwavering support of this medical marijuana bill,” Szczepanski said. “We are so proud of his leadership on this to ensure that the sick and dying of New Mexico have another option in seeking relief from debilitating medical conditions. We look forward to him signing this bill into law.”

SB 523, sponsored by Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-District 17, is mostly a duplicate of SB 238, the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. SB 238 was killed in a contentious House floor vote last Thursday. SB 523 includes language specifically providing for the topical use of cannabis including patches, ointments, and suppositories.

After intense debate on the House floor today, which included battling back several hostile amendments designed to kill the bill, the House voted to approve the measure.

“This is a great day for someone like me. It is a day that I can say without waver that I am so proud to be a New Mexican,” said Essie DeBonnett, who suffers from advanced complications from HIV/AIDS. “For me, medical marijuana is a matter of life and death. Today, I can proudly say that my legislators showed compassion and took a stand to protect the sick and dying.”

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

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