By Steve Elliott
A corrections officer and Iraq veteran in New Mexico has lost his job due to his use of medical marijuana to treat his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Augustine Stanley, 32, spent nearly a year in Iraq in 2004 as an Army Reserve convoy security specialist for the 644th Transportation Company, reports Joline Gutierrez Krueger at Albuquerque Journal. He has served 13 years as a corrections officer at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque.
The son of former Bernalillo County Sheriff's captain and Gallup Police Chief Sylvester Stanley, "Augie" was barely out of high school in 1999 when he began his career as an MDC corrections officer.
In 2006, after serving in Iraq, he returned to his MDC job and was promoted to sergeant, then a year later to lieutenant. Stanley said his record was unblemished.
His wife, Anetra, saw what experiences in Iraq had done to him.
"I've known him since high school, and he has never even raised his voice," Anetra said. "But after he came back, he was changed. He talked about hurting himself. Once, he smashed his fist into a truck window and broke it."
Only working at his job at MDC could he control the waves of what was later diagnosed as PTSD. That diagnosis came in January 2011, and it came with prescriptions for Xanax (anxiety), Ambien (insomnia) and citalopram (depression).
"They just knocked me out," Stanley said. "I couldn't function."
By Steve Elliott
After months of deliberation, the New Mexico Department of Health on Tuesday upheld a recommendation by the Medical Cannabis Program’s Medical Advisory Board and announced that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will remain a qualifying condition for New Mexico’s medical marijuana program.
Patients’ access to medical marijuana under state law was threatened by a request to withdraw PTSD as a qualifying condition for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program after Dr. William Ulwelling, a retired psychiatrist in New Mexico, submitted a formal request to the state's Department of Health requesting PTSD be removed from the list of eligible medical conditions for enrollment in the state’s medical marijuana program.
During her 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Susana Martinez (R) vowed to repeal New Mexico’s medical marijuana law.
“Although today patients suffering from PTSD can breathe a sigh of relief, we will not rest until the Martinez Administration continues to demonstrate, as they did yesterday, that they will not turn their backs on all medical marijuana patients, including veterans, patients with disabilities, and victims of trauma and violent crime,” said Emily Kaltenbach, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico office.
By Steve Elliott
Under a bill passed 37-33 on Monday by the New Mexico House, adults possessing less than eight ounces of marijuana would no longer receive any jail time. House Bill 465 now goes to the Senate, which only has four and a half more days to act on it.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Emily Kane (D-Albuquerque), would reduce penalties for possession of up to four ounces to a civil penalty with increasing fines, while eliminating the potential for jail time for possession of any amount up to eight ounces, reports Steve Terrell at The New Mexican.
"Spending $5 million a year to arrest people with small amounts of marijuana is a waste of resources," Rep. Kane said during the three-hour debate on her bill. "We could put that money to better use."
"Why on God's green Earth would we want to spend money throwing college kids in jail for having a few joints when we could be spending that money on early childhood education?" said Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) during the debate.
Rep. Egolf called New Mexico's current marijuana laws "institutional state stupidity."
By Steve Elliott
New Mexico state Senator Ortiz y Pino's Senate Memorial 80, requesting the state Economic Development Department to study the budgetary implications of taxing and regulating marijuana in the state, on Wednesday passed out of the Senate Rules Committee on a 6-1 bipartisan vote.
The memorial bill will next be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee before being heard by the entire Senate.
"Legislators on both sides of the asile want to know how taxing and regulating marijuana in New Mexico will improve our economic success as a state," said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Many of the best ideas defy political labels."
"As marijuana reform becomes a mainstream position, political candidates and elected officials are finding it less and less of a political third rail," Kaltenbach said.
A new poll conducted by Research and Polling found a majority of New Mexico's registered voters -- 52 percent -- say they support legalizing marijuana for adults, taxing and regulating it in a way similar to alcohol. Forty percent were opposed.
A report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy released last year suggests the legalization of marijuana as an affirmative step to end failed drug policies that fuel a violent black market.
By Steve Elliott
A New Mexico House committee last week voted in favor of a bill that would remove jail penalties for adults possessing small amounts of cannabis. The panel took the action on the same day that a new poll showed a majority of New Mexico voters favor reducing or even eliminating penalties against marijuana possession.
The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, on a 3-2 party line vote, gave a "do-pass" recommendation to HB 465, sponsored by Rep. Emily Kane (D-Albuquerque), reports Steve Terrell at The New Mexican. The committee's three Democrats voted for the bill, while the two Republicans voted against it.
The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee. But even if the measure clears the Legislature, conservative Governor Susana Martinez -- a former prosecutor -- has said she's against relaxing the laws on marijuana.
State and local governments waste too much money arresting and jailing people for marijuana possession, according to Rep. Kane. She said police should be able to investigate more serious crimes.
But Republican Rep. Jason Harper said he's worried that if the marijuana laws are loosened, there would be more people using cannabis, and driving under its influence.
Kane said the laws against driving while impaired would not be changed by her bill.
By Steve Elliott, Toke of the Town/Special to Hemp News
More people were killed in Drug War-related violence in Mexico last year than died in the war in Afghanistan, according to year-end reports from both countries.
In Afghanistan, about 10,000 people -- 2,043 of them civilians -- died in the fighting last year.
Although that conflict involves air power, heavy weapons, and numerous roadside bombs, it was less deadly last year than the Mexican Drug War, with a death toll estimated at around 13,000 by CNN.
In mid-December, the Mexican attorney general's office reported that 12,456 people had been killed through the end of November, reports Phillip Smith at AlterNet. With a death toll of more than 1,000 per month in 2010, a year-end figure of more than 13,000 looks to be accurate.
More than 140,000 U.S. and NATO troops are in the ninth year of a guerilla war with thousands of Taliban fighters who reap the profits of the illegal opium/heroin trade.
In Mexico, more than 50,000 federal troops are in the fourth year of a fight with the drug cartels, who all seem to also be at war with each other.
By DAN FROSCH, NY Times
DENVER — A decade ago, Colorado became one of the earliest states to legalize medical marijuana. Its neighbor New Mexico did so more recently. But that does not mean the two states agree on all the medicinal merits of cannabis.
Both states allow marijuana to be used to treat the symptoms of a variety of diseases, like AIDS and cancer. When it comes to treating post-traumatic stress disorder, however, New Mexico says yes to medical marijuana, while Colorado’s answer is a resounding no.
Those differences were highlighted this week in the Colorado legislature, when a State House committee on Monday narrowly defeated a proposal that would have directed the Department of Public Health and Environment to consider whether marijuana should be used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr. Ned Calonge, the chief medical officer for the health department, which was against the proposal, said psychiatry departments at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Denver and the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver agreed that marijuana should not be recommended for treating the disorder.
“There is no evidence of efficacy of marijuana for treatment of P.T.S.D. in the medical literature,” Dr. Calonge said Tuesday in an interview. “In fact, the published literature suggests that such use leads to addiction and abuse of other substances.”
By Taryn Bianchin, KOB.com
Medical marijuana users celebrate a victory as another condition is added to the list of diseases that qualify for the state's medical marijuana program.
So far, there are 1,188 active patients in the Department of Health's medical marijuana program. Over the last year, a total of ten new diseases have been added to the list.
Under the new addition, people with inflammatory auto immune-mediated arthritis can now apply for a medical marijuana card in New Mexico.
Essie de Bonet is one of the many New Mexicans who believes in the benefits of medical marijuana and she worked closely with Governor Richardson to push the reform.
By KVIA Staff
The New Mexico Department of Health's Medical Advisory Board will have a meeting in Santa Fe Friday to discuss adding conditions to the medical cannabis program.
The public hearing will be from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Harold Runnels Building auditorium, 1190 St. Francis Dr. in Santa Fe.
The Board will review five petitions that have been previously submitted to the Department of Health. The petitions include the following conditions: Hepatitis C undergoing non-antiviral treatment, cluster headaches, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (in a single petition), and Blepharospasm, a neurological movement disorder that causes an abnormal contraction or twitch of the eyelid.
The Board will make recommendations to the Department's Health Secretary, who will make the final decision on all petitions. If a condition is approved, anyone with that medical condition can apply to the Medical Cannabis Program.
By Marjorie Childress, New Mexico Independent
The ongoing budget crunch the state of New Mexico and local governments are facing, a central question on many people’s minds is how to raise revenue.
While it’s still in its infancy in this state, New Mexicans might take heart from the emerging medical marijuana sector. We only have one nonprofit and a relatively small group of patients so far, so there’s not much to tax. But looking west, we might eventually take a page from California.
The state of California raises $18 million a year in state sales tax from medical marijuana dispensaries. And the city of Oakland just became the first city in the country to impose a sales tax on its local dispensaries. The expected revenue won’t be much, according to a New York Times report, but the mayor is still exploring “all measures that will help with our budget situation.”
And legalization advocates are on board. Not only does it further legitimize legalization, paying the tax is “a lot cheaper than lawyers.”
California is well ahead of the curve when it comes to legalizing marijuana — medical use was made legal in 1996 and the state assembly is debating legalization and taxation of marijuana in general later this year.
I’ll be keeping one eye on that debate. Because you know the saying: As goes California, so goes the nation.
By Jeremy Jojola, Eyewitness News 4; Charlie Pabst, KOB.com
The federal government has said it intends to honor state laws legalizing medical marijuana, but organizations in the state’s marijuana program are still worried about federal raids.
Attorney General Eric Holder, the head of the country’s Justice Department, answered questions Friday about whether local growers have to worry about the feds.
New Mexico is one of 13 states where medical marijuana is legal. One state-approved grower is on the verge of dispensing the drug to Albuquerque patients, despite the fact that it’s illegal under federal law.
For two years, New Mexicans with a prescription to smoke have been doing so with fears that the federal government may knock on their door.
In California, even under the Obama administration, DEA agents raided some medical marijuana shops.
One New Mexico man, one of the first legally allowed to use medical marijuana, was arrested by a federal task force but never charged.
By Jeremy Jojola, Eyewitness News 4; Matthew Kappus, KOB.com
For the first time, the only state-approved grower of medical marijuana is about to dispense the drug in New Mexico.
For the past two years, New Mexico patients allowed to smoke marijuana have had to rely on their own supply or get it illegally from dealers. But a state-approved grower based somewhere in Sandoval County is about to start distributing the drug.
Health Department spokeswoman Deborah Busemeyer is not allowed under the law to reveal who or where that grower is, but she said the producer is working on a supply right now.
"Hopefully patients will be able to get medical marijuana from that producer by the end of summer," she said.
An article in the online edition of the Santa Fe Reporter revealed the county of the grower and that there are nearly a dozen possible locations for marijuana "growhouses," from Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Silver City, to as far south as Eddy County—where potential pot farmers have applied to grow legally.
A measure introduced by Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, would set up guidelines for the “growing, licensing, selling and processing of industrial hemp in the State of New Mexico.” House Bill 403 would spend $150,000. Of that, $100,000 would go to New Mexico State University to set up a seed bank and a seed certification so the program would meet the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. The other $50,000 would go to the Department of Public Safety to set up a program related to the growth and sale of industrial hemp. The bill is before the House Business and Industry Committee.
Hispanic Affairs would be its own department
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, is sponsoring a measure (Senate Bill 21) to set up an Hispanic Affairs Department. The measure appropriates $700,000 and would set up a 10-member Hispanic Affairs Commission. The measure, which has been introduced in the past, is pending in the Senate Finance Committee. Tuesday was Hispanic Culture Day at the Roundhouse.
• A measure that would enhance the felony sentences of public officials is set to be considered this morning by the Senate Rules Committee.
The bill (SB 141) would ramp up the penalties for public officials convicted of wrongdoing.