The New Mexico Senate approved the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act (SB 238) on Wednesday, February 7, 34 to 7. If the bill becomes law, it will allow qualified patients suffering from certain illnesses, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy, to use medical cannabis for relief of their symptoms.

With momentum from yesterday's Senate vote and a recent statement by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson supporting the bill, SB 238 now moves to the House. The first committee hearing there could take place early next week.

"We are grateful for the strong leadership shown by the Senate," said Reena Szczepanski, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. "We're hopeful that the members of the House will show the same compassion."

The New Mexico House has been the sticking point for medical marijuana in past years, with the 2005 and 2006 legislative sessions ending without a House floor vote.

Erin Armstrong, a medical marijuana advocate who suffers from advanced thyroid cancer, expressed hope that the governor's support will help the bill move through the House. "I am thrilled that Gov. Richardson continues to show compassion for seriously ill New Mexicans," she said. "I hope the Legislature also recognizes that many New Mexicans can't wait any longer for relief."

Armstrong, one of the two people for whom the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act is named, has worked tirelessly with DPA New Mexico to advance medical marijuana legislation. DPA New Mexico has made passage of medical marijuana legislation a top priority in 2007, engaging in a collective effort with supporters across New Mexico as well as DPA board members.