Legislative Update

27 January 2002
Number 02-02
(As of today: 3,478 subscribers)

Midpoint in the 2002 Session on Wednesday the 30th

· Medical Marijuana
Santa Fe New Mexican: "Senator Rod Adair, R-Roswell, led the charge against the grow-your-own provision" [in the Medical Marijuana Bill.]
· Senator Adair Answers "Drug" Questionnaire

Medical Marijuana

Last year I made it clear to my constituents that after much study and prayerful consideration I had reached a difficult decision to support a bill which allowed seriously ill patients to have access to marijuana under very restrictive, state supervised control. That entire issue has been described as "medical marijuana." My view has not changed. Last year's bill passed the senate 29-12, as a number of my colleagues reached the same conclusions I had, but it died in the house.

This past Tuesday (Jan 22) the Public Affairs Committee met to consider this year's proposal. It was considerably different. It contained new provisions allowing patients approved for the program to have in possession one ounce of marijuana, along with "three mature plants and four immature plants."

I immediately concluded that this was a problem (I had only learned of this new version the afternoon before). I asked why these new provisions were in the bill. In his response to that question and some follow-up inquiries, the Department of Health attorney admitted to me that the DOH had just "kind of reconsidered all this during 2001" and decided they just did not want to have all the administrative burden and responsibility which would come with supervising this program. My response was that that was actually not an acceptable position.

The DOH can't just "opt out" of its role, and encourage marijuana gardens to spring up all over the state. If we are going to have this program, and I believe we should, the State of New Mexico is going to have to supervise it. To make my point, I asked where the seeds would come from for these plants that the patients were going to have to plan (under the proposed language in the bill). The sponsor replied, "That's a good question." There was no workable answer. They were contemplating a "system" in which people would have to break the law to get their gardens started. It did not seem like a good idea.

I immediately hand-wrote an amendment which deleted the provisions about "growing your own plants," and I added language deleting the "one ounce in possession" provision as well. That amendment passed 6-2. That is where the Santa Fe New Mexican's news coverage came in. The "new" bill was now unworkable and a version very similar to last year' s would have to be introduced.

We met again on Thursday and a Committee Substitute was offered by the sponsors. It is very similar to last year's. The substitute bill passed the Public Affairs Committee 9-0, with all five Democrats and all four Republicans voting "yes." The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Adair Answers "Drug" Questionnaire

A group calling itself "Protect New Mexico" sent me a questionnaire asking my position on the so-called drug issues. They prefaced their questions with strong statements about their support or opposition to each of the policy issues they were asking about. They said they were asking all candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to do this. I responded immediately, handwriting the responses shown below while opening my mail in the Roswell post office on January 18.

Here are the questions in the survey they mailed me, along with my responses:

1. What is your position on treatment and prevention programs?

A: I support such programs.

2. What is your position on drug courts?

A: I support drug courts.

3. Would you favor or oppose a state administered (medical marijuana) program for medical purposes?

A: If a lawful application of marijuana treatment for severe medical conditions can be designed in statute, I would support such legislation. I support the efforts of physicians and other health care providers who have found that certain conditions, for which there was no other means of alleviating suffering, can have effective treatment with certain applications of THC. I believe that reasonable efforts to alleviate pain and needless suffering should be undertaken if they can be shown to be consistent with other principles of a just and compassionate society. To do otherwise risks cruelty and the failure of human kindness---perhaps sacrificed on the altar of rigidity and absolute conformity to dictated norms not found in American tradition, philosophy, history nor the Judeo-Christian experience.

4. Do you support [legislation to eliminate jail time for first and second time offenders caught with hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine]?

A: No

5. Do you support or oppose [a bill which will decriminalize certain amounts of marijuana]?

A: Oppose

6. ...[A] bill is expected to be introduced that will eliminate added jail time for repeat drug possession offenders. It also effectively repeals all mandatory enhancements for habitual offenders. Do you support this legislation?

A: I do not support reduction of sentences for offenders or repeat offenders.

7. If elected, would you veto any bill that would legalize or decriminalize drugs, regardless of the floor vote?

A: The Lt. Gov. has no veto power. However, I oppose legalization and would veto such bills if I were governor.

8. Explain what measures you will take to confront the problems caused by illegal drugs in our state.

A: I support increased efforts toward interdiction, and certainly education, treatment and prevention programs which can be proven to have been effective.