Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jun 2013
Source: Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH)
Copyright: 2013 Telegraph Publishing Company
Author: Kevin Landrigan


CONCORD - The New Hampshire Legislature will vote next week on a bill 
to legalize medical use of marijuana for seriously ill patients after 
a speedy compromise emerged Tuesday that Gov. Maggie Hassan has 
indicated she will sign into law.

The agreement occurred after House negotiators gave up on trying to 
allow patients and caregivers to grow marijuana at home.

In return, Senate negotiators agreed to increase from three to four 
the number of state-licensed dispensaries that would sell it.

State Rep. Jim MacKay, D- Concord, said supporters of this issue need 
to be pragmatic enough to accept this compromise, given that the 
state has a governor willing to sign something.

"My attitude was we wanted to get something passed," MacKay told 
reporters. "This is a complex subject with many possible options."

For the first time since taking office, Hassan committed Tuesday to 
signing this latest version.

"I have always maintained that allowing doctors to provide relief to 
patients through the use of appropriately regulated and dispensed 
medical marijuana is the compassionate and right policy for the State 
of New Hampshire," Hassan said in a statement.

Hassan said the revised legislation addressed her concerns about 
allowing people to grow at home and provides an appropriate level of 

During her campaign last fall and since, Hassan has said she can 
support a medical marijuana bill.

As a state senator, Hassan voted for two such measures, one that 
allowed for a home-grown option. But Hassan said any bill she would 
sign needs to be "tightly enforced" and that letting patients grow 
their own would make it harder for members of law enforcement to do their job.

Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, offered the compromise rewrite that 
House leaders endorsed after getting assurances that a commission to 
study and review any needed changes for this new law would be created 
as soon as possible.

Both Stiles and Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, assured House 
negotiators that home-grown language was a non-starter with the 
Senate and with Hassan.

"We took that out because we wanted a bill that was going to pass," 
Stiles said.

The bill's prime author, Stratham Democratic Rep. Donna Schlachman, 
lamented that the final deal still makes patients liable for criminal 
prosecution if they possess the drug before the dispensaries are open 
and they can receive a state-issued registration card.

"It would have been helpful to have. We already know we have patients 
who are using under the guidance or approval of their medical 
provider," Schlachman said. "It's a little bit irksome, because we 
know it's not the patients using who are the problem for law enforcement."

Dispensaries will take up to two years to regulate, locate and build, 
Schlachman said, and after they are open, it will cost patients 
$200-$400 a month to procure the drug.

"We have people who are fragile medically who will continue to have 
to worry," Schlachman said.

There are 19 states plus the District of Columbia that allow patients 
to receive marijuana for treatment of chronic pain.

Matt Simon, state director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said 14 
states let patients grow their own, including Maine and Vermont, 
while Massachusetts allows it in parts of the state where patients 
don't live close enough to a dispensary.

"It's good that the bill is going to pass, but unfortunately there 
will be no protection at all for patients who are suffering and need 
cannabis today," Simon said in a statement.

Since 2007, the Legislature under Republican and Democratic control 
has twice passed this law to have New Hampshire join 18 states and 
the District of Columbia that allow for medical use of marijuana.

But both times, then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed the measure.

State officials say they will need to hire two staff members to 
manage the program, which will cost $200,000 in the first year and 
about $135,000 a year after the startup.

The biggest change to this edition of the bill was a marketing one, 
dubbing it the use of "therapeutic cannabis" rather than medical marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom