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FIRST-PERSON: On medicinal marijuana

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP)–Many observers, myself included, were surprised when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced recently that he wanted our state legislature to legalize the use of “medical marijuana,” during this year’s short, 30-day legislative session which ends Feb. 16. And I was very disappointed when I heard that a medical marijuana bill passed the New Mexico Senate Jan. 31 by a vote of 34-6.

The state Senate previously passed the bill last year when it was approved by two House committees. Thankfully, though, it died on the House floor when time ran out for the session. The governor has said that a “’substantial’ portion of the public agrees” with his recommendation, according to the Jan. 25 Albuquerque Journal. I have no doubt that there is some real truth in that statement. However, I pray that our legislators will quickly become convinced that a substantial portion of the public — including members of the state’s second-largest faith group, Baptists — oppose it.

Until it’s law, let’s do everything we can to oppose it.


Just this past June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could prosecute people who use marijuana for medical purposes even in the 10 states that currently allow it. (You might want to note that the number of states that don’t allow it outnumber those that do by 4-1.) That’s why district attorneys and police agencies oppose it. It is perfectly understandable that many of us envision an explosion of criminal activity in our state if this passes. Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the Supreme Court, said, “The exemption for cultivation by patients and caregivers can only increase the supply of marijuana in the California market. The likelihood that all such production will promptly terminate when patients recover or will precisely match the patient’s medical needs during their convalescence seems remote; whereas the danger that excesses will satisfy some of the admittedly enormous demand for recreational use seems obvious.”

Supporting the high court’s ruling were Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Opposing it were then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor. The bottom line is, “Federal agents may arrest even sick people who use the drug as well as the people who grow pot for them” (Associated Press story in the Albuquerque Journal, June 7, 2005).

Besides all that, marijuana is just plain bad news. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy/Partnership for a Drug-Free America, today’s marijuana is twice as powerful as it was only two decades ago. And those who use it experience:

— “decreased ability to learn,

— “impaired judgment about driving or sex,

— “symptoms of depression, even thoughts of suicide,

— “breathing problems,

— “greater exposure to cancerous chemicals than from tobacco,

— “increased likelihood of using even more dangerous drugs.”

The National Institute of Health said a few years ago, “There is no scientifically sound evidence that smoked marijuana is medically superior to currently available therapies.” There still isn’t. And Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “There must be a 50-state-wide standard, not a patchwork quilt of various exceptions in differing states. Marijuana is extremely addictive and is virtually 100 percent a gateway drug to even more harmful illicit and illegal drugs.”

If we have genuine “compassion” for those suffering from debilitating illnesses, we’ll oppose this bill that flies in the face of good federal law.

The most-recent effort to legalize the use of “medical marijuana” began in 1999. Supporters believe if they just keep bringing it up year after year after year after year, the opposition will grow tired and let them have what they want. Sadly, history has proven them right. The only problem with that is that it would be, for us, an act of disobedience to our God, who says in His Word, “Let us not become weary in doing good..” (Galatians 6:9a NIV).
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, the newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, online at www.bcnm.com/ministries/communication/index.html

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  • John Loudat