Pubdate: Fri, 08 Mar 2013
Source: Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH)
Copyright: 2013 Telegraph Publishing Company
Author: Kevin Landrigan


CONCORD  The near-perennial campaign to legalize medical use of 
marijuana got off to its best start ever with the 14-1 endorsement 
from a key House committee Thursday.

The biggest change inside a 26-page rewrite on the issue was a 
marketing one, dubbing it "therapeutic cannabis" at the urging of the 
state's medical lobby that remains opposed to the bill.

"I'm perfectly fine with it. I don't care if we call it pretzels as 
long as it gets this in the hands of those with debilitating illness 
who really need it," said Matt Simon who is the state's legislative 
lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project.

After years of being neutral on the issue, the New Hampshire Medical 
Society's opposition to this year's edition stunned supporters and 
they're trying to alter the bill to get the doctors' lobby to drop 
that position.

During an executive session today, State Rep. Patrick Culbert, 
R-Pelham, gave emotional testimony to his colleagues about his wife, 
Judy, who succumbed to a long bout with cancer. Medication did not 
reduce the pain that had her vomiting at times for four years and 
near constantly during the last six weeks of her life, Culbert said.

"She smoked marijuana one time and she was out of pain for four 
days," Culbert recalled.

While he offered to get it illegally, she did not try it again for 
fear of being arrested, he said.

"People like Judy shouldn't have to die like that. She should have 
died with dignity and she didn't," Culbert concluded.

The vote of the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs 
Committee sends the bill (HB 573) to the full House for a vote next week.

Since 2007, the Legislature under Republican and Democratic control 
have twice passed this law to have New Hampshire join 18 states and 
the District of Columbia that allow for medical use of marijuana. But 
then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed both of them.

New Gov. Maggie Hassan supported the legislation as a state senator 
and repeated support for the concept while saying she wants to make 
certain only clearly-defined patients get the drug and it's dispensed 
under a tight state regulatory system.

This bill would not only dispense marijuana through five 
state-licensed centers but allow patients or caregivers to grow up to 
three of their own plants at home.

"This overwhelming showing of legislative support provides great 
relief to many seriously ill patients and their families, who have 
been waiting years for medical marijuana to become legal in New 
Hampshire," Simon said. "Patients whose doctors recommend they use 
marijuana to treat their conditions should not have to live in fear 
of arrest in the 'Live Free or Die' state. It is uplifting to see 
such a strong majority of legislators on this committee demonstrate 
their support for patients' rights."

State officials say they will need to hire two staff to manage this 
program that will cost $200,000 in the first year and about $135,000 
a year after the start up.

Rep. Stephen Schmidt, R-Wolfeboro, led the latest rewrite effort that 
added chronic pancreatitis to the list of eligible illnesses after a 
constituent appealed for its inclusion.

"We hope the end result of this bill will provide an opportunity for 
those who really need it to get it and protect the citizens of New 
Hampshire from the concerns expressed by local law enforcement and 
public safety," Schmidt said.

The changes included creating a robust oversight commission that 
every year will be able to recommend how the law should be adjusted, he added.

Obtaining marijuana for any purpose even with this bill remains in 
violation of federal law.

"Everyone should clearly understand. No one is safe from federal 
prosecution," Rep. Schmidt said.
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