Medical marijuana gets Senate nod

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a proposal Tuesday to allow patients seriously ill with cancer, AIDS and some other illnesses to use marijuana for medical purposes.

Supporters say marijuana can help people suffering from the pain of certain debilitating illnesses or nausea caused by treatments for cancer.

“I just can’t say enough about the number of people who will benefit, not a large number, just a few. But that few, we’ve been able to really give them a second chance at life in a lot of times,” said Sen. Timothy Jennings, D-Roswell. “And for those who don’t have that second chance, we’ve at least given them a little relief, which is what I think we’re there for.”

The bill passed the Senate on a 34-6 vote. The bill goes to the House, where a medical marijuana proposal died last year.

Opponents said state government shouldn’t become involved in the distribution and production of marijuana, which is federal government considers an illegal drug with no medical value.

“I think this sends such a terrible message to the young people that we have here, that I will not and cannot support this,” said Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal.

In New Mexico, possessing an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor. However, possession of more than eight ounces is a felony punishable by 18 months in prison.

Opponents also pointed out that a user of medical marijuana — even if were legal under New Mexico law — could be subject to federal drug charges.