Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gov. Martinez OKs Bill Creating MMJ Fund

Neither Ripley nor countless New Mexico residents would believe it, but Republican Gov. Susana Martinez signed a marijuana bill on Monday. Martinez, who was a prosecutor for 25 years, spent half her lifetime fighting the war on drugs.
She took office as governor after the state already had a law permitting marijuana to be used for select medicinal purposes. Now Martinez has signed Senate Bill 240, creating a medical cannabis fund to cover the program’s costs.

Producers of marijuana for medical treatment pay the state fees of $10,000 to $30,000 a year, said Sen. Cisco McSorley, who sponsored the bill.

Rather than the money going into the state’s general spending account, it will be maintained by the Department of Health as a specific fund to pay for administration of the medical marijuana program.

“It means the few New Mexico taxpayers who objected to their money going toward the medical marijuana program no longer have to worry,” said McSorley, D-Albuquerque.

He said he worked on the bill with Martinez’s secretary of health, Dr. Catherine Torres, but had no contact with the governor regarding the bill.

Martinez’s press secretary did not respond to requests for comment on her decision to sign the bill into law.
McSorley said New Mexico’s medical marijuana law was carefully thought out and had become “a model for the nation.”

He said the state had a strict screening process, in which both a patient’s physician and an independent medical board have to endorse the use of marijuana to help in curtailing pain.

The state had 4,310 medical marijuana patients in October, the latest period for which the health department has statistics.

They have cancer, chronic pain, HIV, AIDS or post-traumatic stress disorder. The leading category for medical marijuana use was PTSD with 1,854 patients.

McSorley said state government had been careful to limit the illnesses for which marijuana could be used.
“We have designed conditions that are much tougher than elsewhere. The result is we have a lot fewer patients than other states,” he said.

His bill for the medical cannabis fund cleared the Senate 33-0, but had a tougher time in the House of Representatives, where 27 members opposed it.

They included 25 Republicans, one Democrat, Dona Irwin of Deming, and independent Andy Nuñez of Hatch.

Source: Las Cruces Sun-News (NM)
Author: Milan Simonich
Published: March 5, 2012
Copyright: 2012 Las Cruces Sun-New

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