Thursday, February 08, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 8, 2007

Did Gov. Bill Richardson avoid a potential flip-flop?

Last year, the governor expressed strong support for a bill that would allow people with certain serious medical conditions to use marijuana to treat their symptoms. Better than that, Richardson actually put medical marijuana on his call, which was necessary for it to be considered during a 30-day budget session.

Last week, when the Senate Public Affairs Committee heard the medical marijuana bill (Senate Bill 238), there was no word from the governor on how he stood. As reported in this paper, “during the hearing, Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham and Human Services Secretary Pamela Hyde sat in silence. Last year, in the same hearing, they endorsed it.”

A Health Department spokesman said afterward, “We neither support nor oppose the bill” because his agency isn’t carrying it — even though the bill calls upon the Health Department to establish procedures and license medial marijuana growers.

New Mexican reporter Diana Del Mauro tried unsuccessfully to get a comment from a Governor’s Office spokesman.

On Monday, when the bill went to the Senate Judiciary Committee, I also tried to get a comment from the Governor’s Office to no avail.

Could it be that Richardson’s presidential candidacy was making him think twice about medical marijuana?

As it eventually turned out, no.

The next day, spokesman Gilbert Gallegos e-mailed me saying, “The Governor continues to support a medical marijuana bill with property safeguards, and he will work to get it passed.”

Then on Wednesday, the Governor’s Office sent out a news release quoting Richardson saying, “I will work with legislators to get it passed this session to provide this option for New Mexicans suffering from debilitating diseases.”

This quickly was followed by e-mails from advocates.

“We are grateful that the governor continues to support the bill and has pledged to work with the Legislature to ensure its passage,” wrote Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “Gov. Richardson recognizes that this is a medical issue and that the strength of this bill lies in its safeguards to prevent potential abuse.”

So why the delay of several days?

“It just took me awhile to double-check, since this was not part of our legislative agenda,” Gallegos said Wednesday.

The Senate passed the bill 34-7 on Wednesday night.

Showdown in Carson City: The 2006 election has been over for three months now. Debate season for the 2008 election is about to get under way.

The first forum for the 2008 Nevada presidential caucus is scheduled for Feb. 21 in Carson City, Nev. Before this week, only second-tier candidates had accepted the invitation. These include Richardson, Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.

But earlier this week, the Associated Press reported, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s office confirmed she also would attend the event sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

So far, no word from Sen. Barak Obama or former Sen. John Edwards, the wire service said.
Nevada’s caucus is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2008, right between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.

The Nevada contest is extremely important to Richardson, who attended some political functions in that state late last month.

Ducks Deluxe: One of my favorite parts of the great five-hour cockfighting debate in the Senate on Wednesday was an exchange between Sens. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and Phil Griego, D-San Jose.

Smith, who favors the cockfighting ban, remarked: “They’re not always fighting the chickens. Sometimes they’re gambling some dollars.”

Griego, who is opposed to the ban, said people who run cockfighting pits have assured him there are signs posted that say “Betting is illegal.”

Smith: “There’s signs along the highway posting the speed limit as 55 or 60, but there’s not a lot of compliance.”

Griego: “Do they bet on the duck races in Deming?”

Smith: “You bet they do.”

No word yet on a bill to ban the duck races.

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