Pubdate: Fri, 25 Sep 2009
Source: New Hampshire Business Review (NH)
Copyright: 2009 New Hampshire Business Review
Contact: 150 Dow St., Manchester, NH 03101
Author: Burt Cohen
Note: State senator from 1990 to 2004, Burt Cohen now hosts a radio talk show.
Cited: New Hampshire State Legislature
Referenced: House Bill 648
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Unless you hid under a rock all summer, you know most Americans don't 
want government interference in their health care.

Democrats and Republicans may have their differences, but there is 
universal agreement that decisions regarding medical treatments must 
be exclusively between the doctor and patient. If a doctor and 
patient agree on a particular course of treatment, then the patient 
should be permitted to access that treatment, and neither the 
government nor insurance companies should have any business blocking 
this process. All agree?

Well, then, it's easy to understand why the vast majority of Granite 
Staters disagree with Governor Lynch's veto of the medical marijuana 
bill. The House and Senate agreed that government should not stand 
between doctors and seriously ill patients who could benefit from 
medical marijuana, and both chambers voted to pass House Bill 648 
with solid margins of support, but that may not be enough to get 
these patients the protection and access they deserve.

A final vote to override the veto comes up Oct. 28, and with 
two-thirds majorities required in both chambers, it is expected to be 
very close.

It should be a slam dunk.

A 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71 percent of New Hampshire 
voters support allowing seriously and terminally ill patients to 
access medical marijuana for personal use if their doctors recommend 
it. Only 21 percent were opposed. Legislators have no need to look 
for political cover.

Fortunately, the committee members who actually heard the testimony 
from those afflicted with serious illnesses have become strong 
supporters of the bill. They actually listened to patients, gave the 
issue fair study, and worked hard to pass a tightly-crafted, 
exceptionally responsible bill.

By contrast, Governor Lynch chose not to meet with any of the 
seriously ill patients who had been so instrumental in convincing the 
House and Senate.

In light of this, his veto was unfortunate, but not a great surprise. 
The only good news for patients is that this veto can and should be overridden.

Legislators who are still on the fence, those not on the committees 
who heard from afflicted citizens, now owe it to their constituents 
to make an effort to listen to patients. If they hear the perspective 
of their constituents in need of this now-denied medicine, it will 
change their minds, I guarantee.

There is no question that medical marijuana is effective at 
alleviating the pain associated with various debilitating conditions. 
These include cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, 
muscle spasms, Hepatitis C and others.

There is no question marijuana clearly does have therapeutic value. 
The American Public Health Association, the American Nurses 
Association, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the Lymphoma 
Society, as well as several state medical societies, support allowing 
the medical use of marijuana.

Some readers may not know that very recently I had Hepatitis C. For 
more than half of patients with Hep C, the biggest problem is keeping 
them on the interferon and ribavirin. I surely know why -- the side 
effects are truly awful.

Most Hepatitis C patients must endure at least one grueling 48-week 
course, often two. If I'd had to do another six months of that brutal 
treatment, I probably would have given up and just taken my chances. 
There is ample evidence that Hep C patients who use marijuana are 
more able to stay on their treatment and clear the virus.

As of now, many seriously ill Granite Staters are forced to make a 
terrible decision: continue to suffer, miss days at work, risk losing 
their job, or obtain marijuana illegally and risk arrest and prison. 
That's nuts.

We should stop wasting time and resources on going after sick people 
and focus on real crime. What do we have to gain by denying those who 
could benefit from the use of medical marijuana the opportunity to do so?

Regardless of party affiliation, the overwhelming majority of New 
Hampshire voters agree that doctors, not police officers and 
bureaucrats, should be the ones deciding what constitutes effective medicine.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake