Pubdate: Thu, 21 Mar 2013
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2013 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: Morgan True, Associated Press
Page: 3


CONCORD (AP) - New Hampshire advocates of medical marijuana won
overwhelming support yesterday in the House for a bill that would
sanction five marijuana dispensaries and allow patients or caregivers
to grow up to three plants for medical use.

The bipartisan vote of 286-64 marked the fourth time in six years such
a medical marijuana bill has won House approval. Two previous measures
were vetoed by then-Gov. John Lynch; a third was killed in the Senate.

"The intent of this legislation is to assist a very small minority of
New Hampshire citizens who are suffering terribly from cancer, other
terminal illnesses and debilitating diseases," Rep. Steve Schmidt,
R-Wolfeboro, said.

The vote spread gives the bill a veto-proof majority in the House,
although Gov. Maggie Hassan has said, and repeated yesterday, that she
supports a tightly regulated medical marijuana program. Hassan said
her concern is over the state's ability to regulate a home-grown option.

Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley said earlier in the week he
believes a medical marijuana bill has enough support in the Senate,
but the House version would likely be sent back with significant
changes. The most recent measure to pass the Senate allowed for
patients to grow the plant at home and did not provide for any

Schmidt, a member of the committee that drafted the bill, said the
legislation would affect only about 600 to 800 residents. Under the
measure, patients would have to show they have a qualifying illness
and corresponding symptoms as well as a relationship of at least three
months with a provider. Some qualifying illnesses include: Cancer,
glaucoma, HIV virus or AIDS, Hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and PTSD.

In addition, patients would have to have tried and not responded to
other treatments. No one with a felony or drug conviction could be a
caregiver or dispensary employee.

"We think we've got a bill here that is among the most tightly
controlled in the nation," Schmidt said.

Rep. John Cebrowski, R-Bedford, argued that legalizing medical
marijuana sends the wrong message to young people that marijuana isn't
harmful. Also, he said, growing and smoking marijuana is not an exact
science and better pharmaceutical alternatives exist.

"It would be terribly naive on our part not to realize that scope
creep from medical use to full blown legalization of marijuana is the
underlying agenda as has been proven in other states," Cebrowski said.

Recently, the House has shown a willingness to relax marijuana laws.
Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project noted that a bill to
legalize pot garnered 112 House votes earlier this year, although it
did not pass.

This month, the House also plans to take up legislation that would
decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Marijuana is
decriminalized in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island;
similar legislation is under consideration in Vermont. Those states
all have medical marijuana laws as well.

Hassan has said she does not support changing marijuana laws beyond
its medical use.
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