Pubdate: Thu, 03 May 2007
Source: Valley News, The (White River Junction, VT)
Copyright: 2007 The Valley News
Author: Peter Jamison, Valley News Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Hanover -- A New Hampshire group pushing for changes to drug policy
has placed an article on the Town Meeting warrant asking voters to
allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The article states that Hanover police officers "are urged" not to
arrest anybody over the age of 21 for marijuana possession if the
person can "produce written certification," signed by a doctor,
stating that the drug is for a therapeutic use. It would not apply to
"distribution, cultivation, or sale" of the drug, nor to driving under
the influence.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said that while the article may provoke a
lively discussion, voters should understand that it would be dead on
arrival, even if approved. State law makes possession of marijuana --
for medical or other purposes -- illegal, and the state's drug policy
in this case would supersede that of the town.

"We think it's very important for folks to discuss this in a context
where they understand what we can and cannot do," Griffin said. "The
warrant article as submitted is illegal, in terms of our ability to
follow it."

The article was written by Manchester resident Stuart Cooper,
executive director of Livefree. Cooper said that after the group
failed to get House Bill 774 approved by the state Legislature earlier
this year -- the bill would have protected seriously ill patients who
used marijuana on their doctors' advice -- it decided to focus on
local initiatives.

While other small-scale initiatives are afoot in towns such as Keene
and Nashua, Hanover is the only place where Livefree sought to
generate discussion of marijuana at Town Meeting, Cooper said. The
petition to place the article on the warrant was signed by 26 Hanover
residents, Griffin said. Twenty-five signatures were required.

Why here? Cooper said he was impressed with Hanover's tradition of
debating weighty policy issues at Town Meeting (another article on the
warrant this year urges the federal government to curb greenhouse-gas

"The focus is making this the lowest law enforcement priority," Cooper
said. "Anybody, of course, who abuses the policy should be treated how
they are currently treated -- they should be arrested if they abuse
the policy."

Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone thinks the article, even if it were
enforced, wouldn't change things much for his officers. Giaccone said
that the majority of drug arrests in town involve people under the age
of 30. "That's generally not the crowd that would end up using
marijuana for some type of medicinal purpose," he said.

Aside from the marijuana article, Griffin said that she expects "a
fairly quiet Town Meeting." A raft of minor zoning amendments and
other articles have so far generated little discussion or controversy.
At the Selectboard's April 2 hearing on the warrant, only two people
showed up.

The proposed $20.8 million spending plan for 2007-2008 would increase
the average tax rate by 6 percent, according to the Hanover Town
Report. The tax rates in different parts of town will vary according
to a new plan for divvying up the cost of running the fire department.

In rural areas without fire-hydrant service, combined taxes on a
$400,000 home would rise from the current $7,216 per year to $7,735,
according to estimates from Director of Administrative Services Betsy
McClain. Taxes on a $400,000 home in the downtown area would rise from
$7,684 to $8,111. For a $400,000 home in the "remote" fire district,
taxes would go from $7,072 to $7,535. 
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