Attempts to dissolve New Mexico's medical cannabis program have been aborted, according to a secretary in the office of freshman state Rep. James Smith, R-Bernalillo, who initially sponsored a bill to kill the program.

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Smith's original bill, HB 593 (pdf), would have repealed the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, the 2007 law creating the state's medical cannabis program. As of Feb. 16, the program had served just shy of 4,000 patients.

But Smith's secretary confirmed that he's pulled the repeal bill, replacing it with House Memorial 53 (pdf), which would require the New Mexico Department of Health to conduct a study on the program's effectiveness and deliver it to the Legislature by October 2011. Part of the rationale for studying the program, according to HM 53, is that it "remains controversial."

SFR first reported this yesterday. Last night, the House Republican Caucus issued a press release stating that Rep. Smith "invites debate" on the medical cannabis program. Smith did not return calls on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Here's the full text of the release:

Santa Fe – The discussion over New Mexico’s medical marijuana program continues to be strong with those on many sides making important points for their position. Rep. Jim Smith (Sandia Park, Dist 22) has introduced House 593 which would repeal the state’s medical marijuana program. However, with the first hearing on the bill not scheduled until late in the session, it is clear there will not be enough time to fully debate the bill. To that end, Rep. Smith has held discussions with those on the other side of the issue and has introduced a Memorial to debate the issue in the interim, and get more information on the program.

“This is a debate that will happen,” said Rep. Smith “there are too many questions about this program that need answers.” Rep. Smith has agreed to bring his measure in the interim so that everyone deeply concerned about this issue can be heard.  “I believe this is a debate that should have the time it needs for everyone to voice their opinion.”