Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Longtime Medical Marijuana Advocate Won't Be Returning to Advisory Board

Dr. Steve Jenison
Photo by Jane Phillips
A physician and long-time Health Department administrator who was instrumental in establishing the state’s medical marijuana program and who was chairman of the program’s advisory board learned this week that he had not been reappointed to the board.

Dr. Steve Jenison is a retired medical director for the New Mexico Department of Health’s Infectious Disease Bureau and the first director of the medical marijuana program. Jension said this morning he was informed in a letter by Health Secretary Retta Ward that he would no longer be part of the advisory board.

Jenison said that on Friday, June 7 he’d asked Ward about whether she was going to reappoint him. Instead of telling him the answer, he said, Ward told him that a letter was in the mail. On Monday he got the letter.

“I totally accept that it’s the secretary’s prerogative to appoint and reappoint who she wants,” Jenison said. “I just wish they’d been more respectful in the way they handled it.”

Asked for a response, Kenny Vigil, a spokesman for the Health Department, said , “There’s nothing more we can say about that at this time.”

Emily Kaltenbach, director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance, said Tuesday she’s sorry Jenison wasn’t reappointed. “He’s been a true advocate of the program and has done a very judicious job,” she said. “I hope this isn’t a case of politics trumping science.”

Jenison was appointed to the advisory board in 2010 after he retired from the Health Department.The board is made up of eight board certified practitioners and meets at least twice a year to discussed proposed changes to the medical cannabis program.

During the 2010 campaign Jenison appeared in a TV spot by Drug Policy Action that was critical of Susana Martinez, who in her campaign for governor had said the medical marijuana program should be abolished.

A news release for the organization quoted Jenison saying “Ultimately doctors — not politicians — know what’s best for patients who are suffering and need relief.” He also appeared in the ad, which is posted below.

Asked Tuesday whether he thought that ad might have been a factor in the decision not to reappoint him, Jenison said it’s possible, though he added, “I would have thought if that were the issue that they would have done something much earlier than now.”

Since she became governor Martinez has not moved to get rid of the program.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.