Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jun 2013
Source: Keene Sentinel (NH)
Copyright: 2013 Keene Publishing Corporation.
Author: Kyle Jarvis


As the state Legislature gets set to vote on medical marijuana today,
local police chiefs say it's too soon to identify the enforcement
challenges they may face.

Lawmakers will vote today on whether to make New Hampshire the 19th
state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. If passed, House
Bill 573 would make it legal for people with serious health conditions
to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana if approved by their doctor.
Medical marijuana could be obtained at one of four proposed
dispensaries throughout the state, but it would remain illegal to
obtain elsewhere.

Medical conditions or diseases covered by the bill include cancer,
glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, muscular dystrophy, Crohn's
disease, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis. Post-traumatic
stress disorder was removed from the list during legislative
negotiations over the final version of the bill.

Qualified patients would be issued a registry identification card that
would allow them to purchase pot at the dispensaries -- which would
not be up and running until 2015.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she supports the concept of medical
marijuana, and that she would sign the bill into law after recent
negotiations resulted eliminating a provision that would have allowed
patients or their caregivers to grow their own.

But as questions remain about contradictions between state and federal
laws, which still ban marijuana across the board, as well as how to
handle potential medical marijuana patients prior to the first
dispensaries opening, local police say it's hard to know what to
expect -- and how to react from an enforcement perspective.

"A lot is going to depend on the final version of what is passed, and
until I see such a document, it's kind of premature to make those
decisions at this point," said Peterborough Police Chief Scott M. Guinard.

"It could potentially have challenges for us, but specifically what, I
don't know yet," he said.

Guinard said his personal position on the issue is in line with the
N.H. Police Chief Association, which has argued against any marijuana
legalization effort for any reason.

Swanzey Police Chief Thomas R. DeAngelis said his concern is "state
laws versus federal laws," because "they're in total contrast of one

"I would wait to see what actually passes and becomes law, and then I
think law enforcement is going to have to adjust accordingly," he
said. "The biggest thing is, we need to uphold the law."

DeAngelis said he expects some people will attempt to produce phony
registry cards if the bill becomes law.

"I think that's going to be a given," he said. "There's always
somebody who seems to find a way around something like that."

Charlestown Police Chief Edward C. Smith said in an email that he,
too, would have to wait to see the outcome of today's vote before
discussing enforcement challenges, but he expects local police
departments to get some help in that area if the bill passes.

"I'm certain the AG's Office or the county attorneys in each county
will have suggested guidelines," he said.

Keene Police Chief Kenneth J. Meola declined to comment on the topic,
citing a desire to see how today's vote goes before discussing it.

If passed by the Legislature, the bill would become law as soon as
Hassan signs it, with the first dispensaries expected to open in 2015.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt