Pubdate: Wed, 28 Mar 2012
Source: Union Leader (Manchester, NH)
Copyright: 2012 The Union Leader Corp.
Note: Out-of-state letters are seldom published.
Author: Garry Rayno


CONCORD - Supporters of legalizing the medical use of marijuana will 
try to garner enough votes in the state Senate today to override an 
expected gubernatorial veto.

"We're going to try to get a veto-proof majority," said the bill's 
prime sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe, R-Strafford, at a news conference 
Tuesday. "We broke the party lines this year and have at least seven 
Republican senators supporting it."

Gov. John Lynch vetoed a bill in 2009 to legalize medical marijuana 
use and threatened to veto a similar bill last year that was defeated 
in the Senate after passing the House.

"This bill is less restrictive than the bill he vetoed," said Colin 
Manning, Lynch's press secretary. "He will veto this one."

Senate Bill 409 would allow patients with "debilitating medical 
conditions" or their caretaker to possess up to 6 ounces of marijuana 
or cultivate up to six plants and 12 seedlings within a locked and 
secured facility in a location known to law enforcement.

A patient or caretaker would also be allowed to possess up to 2 
ounces away from home without prosecution.

Under the bill, access to marijuana would be allowed for patients 
with diseases such cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, 
muscular dystrophy, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis and 
post-traumatic stress disorder, or with symptoms such as severe 
nausea or vomiting, seizures and severe, persistent muscle spasms.

A person would need a doctor to certify that marijuana would help 
treat the patient's condition before a registry card would be issued 
to the patient and the caregiver.

The sponsors say allowing cultivation instead of dispensaries reduces 
the risk of abuse and the risk of federal prosecution. Marijuana use 
remains illegal under federal law.

The sale of marijuana to an unauthorized person would be a Class B 
felony under the bill, and other criminal penalties for illegal sale 
of drugs would apply.

"We very purposely made this bill so it doesn't have a profit 
incentive," Forsythe said.

Cancer survivor and Rep. Evalyn Merrick, D-Lancaster, has worked on 
the issue for six years and is a sponsor of the proposed legislation. 
At the news conference, she said she had a brief, but life-saving 
experience with marijuana.

"Not to discount prescription drugs, but the fact remains it was 
medical cannabis that proved to be what ultimately gave me the 
strength to live," Merrick said, adding it provided relief she could 
not find in prescription drugs from her doctor.

Medical marijuana has broad support among the state's citizens, she 
said, and noted those who oppose its use have preconceived notions 
associating the drug with the 1960s and street abuse. "This is a very 
important medication," Merrick said.

Matt Simon, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, 
said the New Hampshire program would be more in line with those in 
Maine and Vermont than California, which has few restrictions.

Under the bill, the program would end in three years if lawmakers do 
not renew it.

Dennis Acton of Fremont, a cancer survivor who now suffers from 
glaucoma, said "This is about two things: personal freedom and 
personal responsibility."

The bill would give patients the freedom to talk to their doctors 
about marijuana treatment and the personal responsibility to 
participate in their treatment, he said.

The program could not begin until enough donations are received by 
the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the program.

To date 14 states allow medical marijuana cultivation and two other 
states allow the drug's use for medical reasons.

The Senate will vote on SB 409 Wednesday. The Senate Health and Human 
Services Committee voted 5-0 to approve the bill.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom