New Mexico gov signs med pot law
by Liz Highleyman
New Mexico became the 12th state with a medical marijuana law Monday, April 2, after Democratic Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill that cleared the state's House of Representatives last month.
That win came shortly after the chamber defeated another medical cannabis bill in a close vote; the provisions of the failed measure were then incorporated into a related bill that had already passed the state Senate.
Richardson's efforts were instrumental in securing the bill's passage, and he is the only presidential candidate to come out firmly in support of medicinal cannabis.
"This bill will provide much-needed relief for New Mexicans suffering from debilitating diseases while including the proper safeguards to prevent abuse," Richardson said in a statement. "I am pleased that the legislature did the right thing."
Richardson said that while he was moved by the plight of patients, he does not support legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
White House "drug czar" John Walters called the law "irresponsible," saying it would increase crime and send the wrong message to young people. The federal government does not recognize state medical marijuana laws, and contends that cannabis has no accepted medical uses.
The new law will take effect on July 1. As in California â€“ the first state to institute a medical cannabis law â€“ New Mexico's program will be administered by the state health department. Patients will present recommendations from their doctors, and the department will issue identification cards. Unlike California, however, patients will not be allowed to grow their own cannabis, but must obtain it from a licensed producer.
Medical cannabis advocates lauded the addition of another state law.
"This is a real sign that politicians are coming to understand that supporting medical marijuana is a politically popular and safe thing to do," Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project told the Bay Area Reporter. "Gradually, science and common sense and public opinion are dragging elected officials kicking and screaming into 21st century."
"I hope that other elected officials take note: Americans will stand behind those that believe in compassion and mercy for our most vulnerable, our sick and dying patients struggling for relief," concurred Reena Szczepanski of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico.
In addition to New Mexico and California, other states with medical marijuana laws are: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
A 2005 national Gallup poll found that 78 percent of respondents supported medical marijuana.