Pubdate: Tue, 10 Apr 2012
Source: Union Leader (Manchester, NH)
Copyright: 2012 The Union Leader Corp.
Note: Out-of-state letters are seldom published.
Author: Ted Siefer


CONCORD -- Medical marijuana returned to the House Health, Human 
Services and Elderly Affairs Committee on Tuesday, having been passed 
by the Senate last month.

However, Senate Bill 409 encountered familiar resistance from law 
enforcement officials, who doubted claims made about marijuana's 
medical benefits and raised concerns about crime associated with the drug.

The bill would allow patients with "debilitating medical conditions" 
or their caretaker to possess up to 6 ounces of marijuana or 
cultivate up to four plants 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.

The goal of the grow-oriented policy is to avoid some of the problems 
that have plagued the medical marijuana policy in California, where 
federal drug enforcement authorities have cracked down on the state's 
dispensary system.

In making the case for the bill, its sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe, 
R-Strafford, pointed to his own clean-cut background, explaining that 
he is a former Air Force pilot who has never used marijuana.

"This is about trying to get patients the help they need," he said.

In what may be a positive development for the bill, Forsythe told the 
panel that he had met with Gov. John Lynch last week and that he was 
"looking the bill over."

"We're more than willing to work with him if he's willing to work 
with us," Forsythe said.

A spokesman for the governor, who has indicated that he does not 
support the current bill, did not respond to a request for comment.

The governor was the greatest impediment to passing medical marijuana 
legislation when it was last proposed. While the bill cleared the 
House and Senate, it was vetoed by the governor and there weren't 
enough votes for an override.

Anticipating a veto, Forsythe is seeking to muster veto-proof support 
for the bill. The Senate backed the bill 13-11 last month, short of 
the votes needed for an override.

Compared to past hearings on medical marijuana bills, there were 
relatively few people who came to share their own stories of using 
marijuana to deal with medical conditions. One was Thomas Roth of Milton Mills.

"I used medical marijuana for four years and I got off 80 percent of 
the prescribed narcotics I was on," he said.

Officials from the Attorney General's Office and police 
representatives spoke against the bill.

Representing the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, 
Franklin Chief David Goldstein said he doubted some of the claims 
made by backers of medical marijuana, such as its use as a treatment 
for post-traumatic stress disorder.

"If there are scientific studies that show the benefits, let's see 
them. What we're hearing is anecdotal," he said.

The bill was referred to a sub-committee, which is expected to take 
up the bill next Tuesday.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom