The Mix

Looks like medical marijuana is a no go in New Mexico

Sugar daddy drug companies helped nix the compassionate-use bill
I was hoping to write about a progressive victory this week; the New Mexico state legislature was widely expected to pass a compassionate-use medical marijuana bill.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The legislature effectively killed the bill by sending it, late in the game, to the conservative Agriculture and Water Resources Committee. As reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican on Monday:
"A state House panel has shelved a Senate-passed bill that would have allowed patients suffering from illnesses like cancer or AIDS to use marijuana prescribed by a doctor to alleviate their pain.
With the end of the legislative session set for Thursday, the move likely kills the bill for this session.
The Agriculture and Water Resources Committee tabled the measure on a 4-3 vote Saturday.
"Why are you trying to kill us?" Essie DeBonet, 61, of Albuquerque shouted at committee members as the vote sank in after an emotional hearing on the proposal.
DeBonet said she has suffered from AIDS for 18 years and needs marijuana to control the pain without giving her nausea that prevents her from eating.
The bill would have created a program in the Health Department where doctors could have referred patients with debilitating-medical conditions. Patients who were certified under the program would be able to possess marijuana without risk of prosecution by state authorities, but they could not grow it.
[Sen. Cisco McSorley] said the bill is not a move to legalize all marijuana use in New Mexico. It is about helping an estimated 250 severely ill patients, he said."
In a separate article, the New Mexican wonders if big pharmaceutical companies had something to do with the demise of the medical marijuana bill. Apparently, pharmaceutical companies play sugar daddy to an anti-medical marijuana group called Dads and Moms Against Drug Dealers:
"According to DAMADD's Web site, Perdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, is a sponsor of the organization. Several other large pharmaceutical companies, including Jannsen, Bristol-Meyers, Roche, Alpharma, UCB, Endo, Cephalon, Teva and Boehringer Ingelheim, also support DAMADD...
The pharmaceutical industry never has been visibly active in opposing medical-marijuana legislation in New Mexico. But the industry -- which contributed more than $97,000 to New Mexico political campaigns in 2002 and more than $56,000 in 2004 -- stands to lose money if marijuana became a free and legal treatment.
Prescription drugs to combat nausea and other symptoms, as some supporters say marijuana can do, may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month."
Ironically, the teenage son of a DAMADD spokesman overdosed and died while abusing not marijuana, but OxyContin, a legal a prescription drug manufactured by Perdue Pharma.

Meanwhile, cancer and AIDS patients in New Mexico will either break the law by smoking a joint to control their nausea, or pay thousands of dollars to buy prescription cannibis – Marinol -- from corporate pharmaceutical companies.

What kind of cracked up world is this?
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.
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