Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Medical Marijuana Law Namesake Speaks Out

Erin Armstrong lobbied the state Legislature for three years to pass the medical marijuana law. Arnstrong, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 17, is the "Erin" in the "Lynn  & Erin Compassionate Use Act." She's the daughter of Debbie Armstrong, former state secretary of Aging and Long-term Services.

"It's not just a drug issue," she said at a news conference during the 2005 session. "It's a patients-rights issue. Patients should not have to decide if keeping down your next meal is worth getting arrested." 

She said at the time she dreaded the day she would be taken off her parents' insurance plan. At the time she was taking a drug called Zofran to control her nausea. It worked well, she said, but without insurance it would cost more than $3,000 a month for the drug.

By the time the law passed in 2007, Armstrong told The New Mexican that her symptoms had quieted down and she didn't need medical marijuana. 

Armstrong, a Santa Fe High and UNM grad now in her last year of law school in Berkeley, emailed me this morning with a comment about the recent Drug Policy Alliance tv ad aimed at  Republican gubernatorial Susana Martinez.

I am proud to have worked for years to help enact the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. I was deeply honored when legislators chose to amend the bill to include my name in its title. I continue to believe in the cautious, patient-centered, medical structure of the program. Most of all, I'm proud to be from a state that refuses to participate in the arrest of our most vulnerable citizens. Surely their quest for relief is not a crime. Surely their punishment is not worth our tax dollars or the blight on our collective humanity.

Whether or not one believes in the merits of medical marijuana, every New Mexican should care about Susana Martinez's desire to repeal this law. Martinez’s stance shows not only a stubborn allegiance to bad policy, it represents a fundamental disrespect for our political process. This law is the result of years of testimony and public education. Its safeguards are the products of deliberation and compromise. Martinez’s intent to dismantle this program not only ignores patients, it ignores deliberative democracy at its finest. Surely New Mexico deserves better.