SANTA FE, N.M. – Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, poised to sign a bill making New Mexico the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana, said Thursday he realizes his action could become an issue in the presidential race.
“So what if it’s risky? It’s the right thing to do,” said Richardson, one of the candidates in the crowded 2008 field. “What we’re talking about is 160 people in deep pain. It only affects them.”
The legislation would create a program under which some patients â€” with a doctor’s recommendation â€” could use marijuana provided by the state health department. Lawmakers approved the bill Wednesday. The governor is expected to sign it in the next few weeks.
Richardson has supported the proposal since he first ran in 2002. But he pushed especially hard for it this year, leaning on some Democrats to change their votes after the bill initially failed.
“Give him credit. It’s not something you do because you’re going to garner great political support for it. It is a bit controversial,” said Thomas Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. By the same token, Mann says, it is not likely to hurt him in the Democratic contests.