Pubdate: Sun, 25 Nov 2012
Source: Union Leader (Manchester, NH)
Copyright: 2012 The Union Leader Corp.
Note: Out-of-state letters are seldom published.
Author: Michael Cousineau


A new governor open to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes 
could boost the chances of New Hampshire joining the rest of New 
England in allowing such use.

"We're very optimistic about finally passing it in 2013," said Matt 
Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project who has 
pushed for such a law in New Hampshire.

A new bill to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in New 
Hampshire is expected to be filed this week at the State House, he said.

"I think the bill will at least propose patients be allowed to 
cultivate for themselves or (buy from) dispensaries that are 
state-licensed," Simon said. "It will be up to the Legislature to go 
one way or another or both."

Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan backed medical marijuana legislation in 2009 
while a state senator and spoke in favor of it during her recent 
gubernatorial campaign.

On Friday, her spokesman, Marc Goldberg, said Hassan remained open to 
backing such legislation.

"If appropriately regulated, with controlled and limited dispensing, 
Governor-elect Hassan supports allowing access to medical marijuana 
for patients," Goldberg said in an email.

"As governor, she will closely evaluate any bill permitting the use 
of medically prescribed marijuana to ensure that the method of 
distribution is safe and tightly regulated and will consult with 
relevant stakeholders, including the law enforcement and medical 
communities," he said.

This year, the Senate and the House approved Senate Bill 409, but the 
Senate in June fell three votes short of overriding the governor's 
veto. The bill would have allowed seriously and terminally ill 
patients to grow marijuana for personal use with a doctor's prescription.

In his veto message last June, Gov. John Lynch said he "cannot 
support establishing a system for the use of medical marijuana that 
poses risks to the patient, lacks adequate oversight and funding, and 
risks the proliferation of a serious drug."

The bill's prime sponsor, Sen. James Forsythe, R-Strafford, who 
didn't seek reelection last year, said about 1,000 patients in New 
Hampshire could probably benefit from the bill.

Simon said he thinks Democratic gains in the House and Senate 
"probably adds to our already strong majority." A vote on the medical 
marijuana bill garnered 62 percent of Republican legislators and 97 
percent of Democrats, he said.

"It is a bipartisan measure at this point in both chambers ... and we 
anticipate having strong bipartisan support again in 2013," Simon said.

Still, he said, "There are a lot of new faces, and we understand 
they'll have to be convinced to support it."

Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, expects medical marijuana 
legislation to emerge again in 2013 in the Senate, where Republicans 
outnumber Democrats, 13-11. It is "hard to say" now whether a bill 
would pass the Senate because he hasn't conducted a head count, Bragdon said.

Bragdon, who backed the final version of the marijuana bill this 
year, said his vote would depend on the details contained in any future bill.

Nearly 20 states allow for medical marijuana, counting Massachusetts, 
which approved a ballot question this month with 63 percent support, 
Simon said.

Massachusetts also will be the 15th state to permit home cultivation, he said.

"A patient with a long-term disability such as multiple sclerosis 
that might live another 30 or 40 years, if that person is capable of 
cultivating a few plants, that's a savings of a few thousand dollars" 
a year versus purchasing from a dispensary, Simon said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom