Tracknum: 10109.200910291424.n9teoh8w010003
Pubdate: Thu, 29 Oct 2009
Source: Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH)
Copyright: 2009 Telegraph Publishing Company
Author: Kevin Landrigan, Staff Writer
Cited: NH Coalition for Common Sense
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - United States)


CONCORD - The determined opposition of nine state Senate Republicans 
and one Democrat blocked New Hampshire from becoming one of 14 states 
that legalized the possession of marijuana by chronically ill 
patients and their caregivers.

Wednesday's 14-10 vote to override Gov. John Lynch's July veto of the 
bill fell two votes shy of the super-majority needed to defy Lynch's 
action and pass the bill into law.

After three months of private lobbying, no minds were changed as the 
Senate vote was identical to the one when it sent the measure to 
Lynch's desk back in May.

Sen. Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, co-founded the state's first hospice 
for the terminally ill and pleaded for the bill's survival.

"It's up to 16 of us in this chamber to look at those who are 
suffering to say, I understand and I will help," Gilmour said.

But Sen. Robert Letourneau, R-Derry, said any law making marijuana 
legal for any purpose contradicts society's push to convince the 
nation's young not to experiment.

"This is a terrible message to send to our children," Letourneau said.

The leader of NH Coalition for Common Sense, Matt Simon, said he knew 
that a few senators had told constituents in recent weeks they were 
capable of making the switch to backing the bill.

"You never give up hope, so I'm disappointed. Now I'm not looking 
forward to making those difficult calls to people depending on the 
Legislature to relieve their unrelenting pain," Simon said.

Sen. Betsi DeVries, D-Manchester, who represents Litchfield, was the 
only member of her party to oppose it.

Sen. John Gallus of Berlin stood out as the only Senate Republican to back it.

"I am very disappointed. This is something that, at the end of the 
day, really helps the people of New Hampshire," Gallus said in a statement.

Earlier Wednesday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives had 
voted to overrode Lynch's July 9 veto, as expected.

The 240-115 vote in the House was 10 votes above the override threshold.

It marked the first time a legislative body took this confrontational 
step since Lynch, a popular, three-term Democrat, first became 
governor in January 2005.

Among House Democrats present, 94 percent voted for the bill; while 
65 percent of Republicans stood with Lynch, although 57 GOP members 
were in favor of the veto override.

Rep. Evalyn Merrick, D-Lancaster, said supporters carefully addressed 
all of Lynch's concerns that prompted a conference committee that 
Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, had led to rewrite the entire bill.

"Today we make a decision that will affect the quality of life for 
many of our sickest citizens," Merrick said. "We have an opportunity 
to send a very clear message that we have not forgotten our citizens 
with long, suffering pain."

After the Senate setback, Merrick told reporters she will return in 
2011 with her bill if she's re-elected.

Rep. Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, a former volunteer firefighter, said the 
bill was well-intentioned but would pose problems for law enforcement.

"Legislation which changes a fundamental concept takes time and if we 
don't take the time necessary to do it right, we find that we must 
revisit that issue," Jasper said.

"If we pass HB 648 over the governor's objection, there may well be 
serious consequences."

The state's fire chiefs had sent an e-mail opposing the bill.

"What fireman or policeman or truck driver would feel safe if he went 
to work in the morning knowing that his colleague was severely 
medicated?" asked Rep. Robert Elliott, R-Salem. "I think this is a 
legitimate objection to this part of the bill."

Rep. Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, chairs the House panel on law 
enforcement matters and is a retired deputy U.S. marshal.

No one could be a firefighter or policeman and qualify as a patient 
who had to suffer from a chronic or wasting disease who experienced 
either "severe pain, severe nausea or severe vomiting," Shurtleff said.

"That individual would not be fit either physically or mentally to 
perform the duties of a firefighter," he added.

Lynch saluted the aims of the sponsors but vetoed the bill due to 
concerns about cultivation, distribution, the definition of qualified 
patients and the volume of marijuana available to them.

Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, D-Windham, noted that U.S. Attorney General 
Eric Holder and New Hampshire's U.S. Attorney John Kacavas last week 
confirmed the federal government would ignore federal law and not 
prosecute patients with small amounts of marijuana if they lived in 
states where medicinal use was legal.

"I'm not here to debate what is good and bad with this drug; the 
reality is it's unenforceable," said DiFruscia, a trial lawyer.

"I think the governor in looking at his veto should seriously 
consider what his duty and responsibility is. Clearly law enforcement 
does not think this is a bad thing."

Critics pointed to California, which has the most loosely enforced, 
medical marijuana bill in the nation, where the drug is dispensed at 
dozens of outlets across the state.

"Every block has two or three storefronts selling marijuana and the 
people buying it ... don't look very sick to me," Letourneau remarked.



Sponsor: Rep. Evalyn Merrick, D-Lancaster.


The original bill would have let patients and designated caregivers 
have six plants and up to two ounces of useable marijuana to help who 
have a "debilitating medical condition" as long as it's under the 
supervision of a physician.

Status: Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill in July. The House of 
Representatives voted Wednesday to override that veto by a margin of 
240-115. The State Senate vote to override was 14-10 in favor, two 
votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to create law despite a 
gubernatorial veto.

VOTE: A "yes" vote supported the bill and was to override the 
governor's veto. A "no" vote endorsed the governor's action. 
Committee recommendation to kill the bill, A "no" opposed that position.

Bette Lasky, D-Nashua: Yes

Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis: Yes

Peter Bragdon, R-Milford: No

Sheila Roberge*, R-Bedford: No

Sharon Carson*, R-Londonderry: No

Betsi DeVries*, D-Manchester: No

Michael Downing*, R-Salem: No

Robert Letourneau*, R-Derry: No

* Roberge's district includes Merrimack, Carson represents Hudson, 
DeVries has a district that includes Litchfield, Downing represents 
Pelham and Letourneau's district includes Litchfield.