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          Front Page




State Clears 6 Patients for Medical Pot Use

By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Journal Staff Writer
    The New Mexico Department of Health has authorized six people to legally use marijuana for medical reasons under a state law that took effect July 1, agency officials said Thursday.
    But a portion of the medical marijuana law that calls for state-licensed production and distribution of marijuana remains unresolved, Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil said.
    New Mexico is the 12th state to approve medical marijuana use but the first that calls for state-licensed production and distribution of the drug.
    The law allows the use of marijuana to relieve symptoms of diseases and their treatments. Those diseases include HIV-AIDS, glaucoma, cancer and multiple sclerosis. It also authorizes use for some people in hospice care.
    Vigil said the agency has asked New Mexico Attorney General Gary King whether employees can legally license production and distribution of marijuana and remain in compliance with federal law, which outlaws the drug's possession and distribution.
    Phil Sisneros, spokesman for King's office, said Thursday that staff attorneys had not completed their response to the Department of Health's request.
    Vigil said that in other states with medical marijuana laws, "almost all those people have a few flower pots around the house" and grow enough marijuana for their personal needs.
    "They're not roaming up and down the streets looking for seedy-looking guys with plastic bags," Vigil said.
    Health officials issued a statement last month saying that patients approved under the law can have "four mature marijuana plants and three immature marijuana seedlings."
    As of Thursday, the agency had received 12 complete applications, said Steve Jennison, medical director of the department's Infectious Disease Bureau.
    A complete application includes written verification from a physician that confirms the applicant's diagnosis, Jennison said. Health officials have approved six applications and rejected six, he said.