Pubdate: Tue, 06 May 2014
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, NH)
Copyright: 2014 Geo. J. Foster Co.
Author: Andrew Hemingway
Note: Andrew Hemingway is a Republican primary candidate for New 
Hampshire governor.


It's sad what's happening - or rather, what isn't happening - with 
New Hampshire's "therapeutic use of cannabis" program. Despite the 
fact that a medical marijuana bill was signed into law last July, 
nine months later patients are still no better off than they were a year ago.

This failure of our state government to protect even the sickest 
patients can be laid squarely at the feet of two individuals: 
Governor Maggie Hassan and former Governor John Lynch.

Let's rewind. The House and Senate have approved medical marijuana 
bills three times dating back to 2009, and all three bills were 
either killed or mangled at the behest of Democratic Governors. As a 
result, today New Hampshire is the only state in New England where 
doctors still can't help their patients get legal protection if they 
have a serious illness and could benefit from marijuana.

In 2009, the House and Senate approved a bill that would have allowed 
doctor-approved patients to cultivate a limited amount of marijuana 
for personal use. Unfortunately, Governor Lynch insisted that 
patients could not be allowed the freedom to take care of themselves. 
In an effort to appease the Governor, Democrats rewrote the bill, 
replacing the limited government approach with a top-down, 
bureaucratic system that would have maintained felony penalties 
against any individual patient growing his or her own marijuana 
plants for medicinal use.

Lynch vetoed the bill anyway, and the effort to override his veto 
fell two votes short. Patients' hopes were crushed, and some have 
since uprooted their families, moving to neighboring states so they 
could legally find relief by growing a simple plant.

Let's flash forward to 2012, when the House and Senate were led by 
Republican supermajorities and Senator Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford) 
took the lead on this issue by sponsoring SB 409.

Senator Forsythe felt strongly that health care decisions should be 
made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats or police officers. 
His bill abandoned the bureaucratic approach and returned to the 
simple concept of protecting doctor-approved patients from arrest and 
prosecution. This compassionate Republican proposal won majority 
support from both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, 
but it was again vetoed and killed by Governor Lynch.

After this second crushing defeat, patients seeking protection were 
relieved when Maggie Hassan announced she was running for Governor. 
Then-Majority Leader Hassan had voted for the bill that would have 
allowed plants and immediate legal protections in 2009, so patients 
thought their time had finally come, and many became supporters of 
her campaign.

But then she flip-flopped.

In 2013, the House passed HB 573 with more than 80% support. This 
bill would have allowed limited home cultivation and would have also 
allowed for a few state-regulated dispensaries. In a word, it would 
have given patients choice.

But as we often see on other issues, such as education and health 
care, Democrats like Hassan just don't appear to see any value in 
letting individuals make their own choices. While HB 573 was being 
considered by the Senate, Hassan turned against the interests of 
patients and threatened to veto the bill unless the Senate gutted 
several key provisions.

Senators felt they had no choice but to appease the Governor, so they 
agreed to remove home cultivation, and they also stripped the 
provisions that would have immediately given patients some degree of 
legal protection.

As a result of Hassan's intervention, it is still a felony if even 
the sickest cancer or multiple sclerosis patient cultivates a single 
plant. Sadly, the Governor's bureaucratic, grin-and-bear-it approach 
to medical marijuana is harming some of our state's most seriously 
ill residents.

A very limited bill was introduced this year that would have allowed 
patients to grow two mature plants, but only until a dispensary opens 
within 30 miles of a patient's residence. Sadly, although the House 
approved this bill with 76% support, a Senate committee has condemned 
it to "interim study."

Unless the legislature pulls off a miracle in the next few weeks, the 
needless suffering of patients will continue for another year and a 
half or longer. After watching this saga unfold, I have to ask - if 
this is how Maggie Hassan "solves" problems for our state's sickest 
residents, how will she "solve" the next serious problem, or the one after that?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom