Editorial: Applaud lawmakers for medical pot bill

March 18, 2007

EDITORIAL, Albuquerque Tribune

It took years, a lot of wrangling and considerable grief, but finally New Mexico will join 11 other progressive and caring states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Way overdue, it is the right thing to do, because its intent is solely to bring comfort and relief to patients for whom marijuana is a painkiller. It is such a simple, human thing to do that we are moved to ask: What the heck took so long?

For the better part of a decade, repressive views have held sway in this otherwise typically progressive state, which previously twice elected a popular Republican governor who favored decriminalizing virtually all illicit drugs.

Now, another popular governor, Democrat Bill Richardson, says he plans to sign legislation that will allow patients in pain, who have a doctor's recommendation, to use marijuana supplied by the state Health Department.

This is, after all, a medical matter - between doctor and patient - and the state and federal governments have no business banning anything that can be legitimately used by physicians to improve the health or well-being of their patients. On such questions, medicine, not politics, should rule. And finally, in New Mexico, it will.

Reflecting the contentious history of the measure, Richardson said he intends to sign the bill despite the political risk.

What political risk? Like so many squeaky issues in this country that seem to get all the political grease, the reality is that most New Mexicans and most Americans are sympathetic to people in pain and have no problem with the notion that marijuana might be used to provide relief.

What they want is a politician with half a brain and the political courage to stand up and use it for public benefit, in the face of a little ranting and raving.

Political wisdom holds that this is a contentious and highly controversial issue and that Richardson, in supporting the medical marijuana law, is gambling not only his popularity in New Mexico but also his shot at the Democratic presidential nomination.

There may be political courage involved, but more probably it is shrewd political insight that this governor once again displays. In his own words, the law is for people who "are suffering. My God, let's be reasonable."

Let's, indeed. Richardson noted that only about 160 people in New Mexico might initially use the new law.

Richardson and the Legislature deserve praise for cutting through the nonsense, finally standing up and doing the right thing - even if in the face of a regressive federal government that has refused to compromise in its inhumane declaration that marijuana is an illegal, controlled substance with no medicinal value.

While federal courts continue to sanction that inhumanity with rulings against patients, doctors and medicinal marijuana, in New Mexico people in need of medical marijuana will at least know that their state government, governor and Legislature are on their side.



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