Saturday afternoon, the New Mexico State House voted (41-26) to pass House Bill 155, co-sponsored by Rep. D. Armstrong (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. McCamley (D-Las Cruces) to establish a fund in the state treasury for research related to the production, uses, effects, and efficacy of medical marijuana. The bill had bi-partisan support with six Republicans voting in favor, including the minority leader, Nate Gentry, R-Abq. Other Republicans who voted in favor of medical cannabis research were David Adkins, Jim Dines, Sarah Maestas-Barnes, and Monica Youngblood from Albuqurque, and Gail Armstrong, Magdalena.
The bill also establishes protections from state level prosecution and criminal liability for researchers, similar to protections that already exist for medical cannabis patients, producers and medical providers. The proposed legislation does not create an appropriation or cost the state money, but creates a placeholder fund that the legislature or Dept. of Health could choose to direct funds toward in the future. The fund could also collect income from grants, donations, etc..
“This bill would allow researchers like Siv Watkins, a Biology Professor at NM Tech, to conduct university approved studies without fear of criminal or civil liability,” said Representative Armstrong. “This researcher already has a university approved study ready to go. They even have private funding. But, until and unless this bill passes and is signed into law, Professor Watkins and others aren’t protected from prosecution, even at the state level.”
New Mexico’s original medical marijuana bill, the Lynn Pierson Controlled Substances Research and Therapeutic Act, created a program at UNM that distributed marijuana to New Mexicans sick with cancer.
“If we want to learn more about the effects of marijuana, it is critical to ensure that academic researchers have the same level of protection from liability that is already extended to state licensed patients, producers and medical practitioners,” said Jessica Gelay, New Mexico Policy Coordinator with the Drug Policy Alliance. “It was great to see that Representatives from both sides of the aisle voted for this measure. The only way to get more data on effects of marijuana is to support well-designed research, which is what this bill sets up a framework to do.”
More than 32,000 New Mexicans are qualified to participate in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, which is administered by the Department of Health (DOH). Patients are certified by a medical practitioner to have one of 21 serious medical conditions and must register with DOH in order to become a qualified patient.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.