Protesters Promote Medical Marijuana Legalization

June 09, 2004

Rachel Alaimo-Monson , The Daily Lobo - University of New Mexico

Medical marijuana supporters gathered Friday in front of Rep. Heather Wilson's Downtown office to protest her anti-legalization stance. Last July, Wilson voted against an amendment that would prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, a new amendment, will be proposed to the House of Representatives this summer. It would prevent the U.S. Department of Justice from prosecuting and imprisoning medical marijuana patients and caregivers who are acting in compliance with state law.

It would not prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from arresting individuals involved in marijuana-related activities not connected to medical use.

Although Wilson was in Washington, D.C., during the protest, her office was chosen largely because of her voting record.

Last fall, UNM senior Gabrielle Guzzardo met with Wilson in Washington, D.C., where Guzzardo said Wilson made it very clear she was against the use of medical marijuana.

'Heather Wilson stated that she feels that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to rampant drug use of all sorts,' Guzzardo said. 'We are not interested in recognizing recreational use of marijuana. However, it is our duty to protect sick and dying patients in jail. This is a health care issue.'

Cherrie Haymes, a medical marijuana patient from Santa Fe, was prescribed the drug in northern California for arthritis in her neck and for back spasms.

'Marijuana is the best antispasmodic I have ever used,' she said. 'It is both more effective and less harmful than pharmaceutical drugs.'

Bryan Krumm, director of New Mexicans for Compassionate Use, said pharmaceutical companies are to blame for keeping medical marijuana out of the hands of patients who would greatly benefit from it.

'Pharmaceutical companies can't make a profit from marijuana,' he said. 'The bottom line is, you cannot patent marijuana because it is a plant.'

Guzzardo organized the event in conjunction with the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization that works to reform marijuana laws across the country.

The event, which drew about 50 protesters, was sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Krumm, a key speaker at the protest, said it is proven fact marijuana can alleviate symptoms associated with arthritis, depression, anxiety and pain when used correctly.

Although New Mexico is not a medical marijuana state, in 1978 it became the first state to pass legislation that allowed medical research of the drug.

'Research conducted proved the efficacy and safety of marijuana for medical purposes,' Krumm said. 'Marijuana is proven in alleviating nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and relieves interocular pressure in glaucoma patients.'

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, 80 percent of American adults support legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients.

Christina Haynes, vice president of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, said the protesters didn't expect a response from Wilson's office but building awareness was the main goal of the protest.

'Once our age group becomes active and becomes the majority of voters, Congress will pay attention to us,' she said.

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