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N.H. becomes 19th state to legalize medical marijuana as Hassan signs bipartisan bill

New Hampshire became the 19th state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana yesterday, when Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill that passed the Legislature this year with bipartisan support.

“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, and this legislation ensures that we approach this policy in the right way with measures to prevent abuse,” Hassan said in a statement.

The law takes effect immediately, but it may be well over a year before the program is up and running. Patients must obtain a registry ID card from the state and buy their marijuana only at special nonprofit dispensaries, and administrative rules for those facilities could take up to 18 months to finalize.

Still, yesterday was a victory for medical marijuana advocates in the Granite State. Similar bills had passed the Legislature in 2009 and 2012, but both times were vetoed by then-Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.

Hassan, a Democrat who took office this year, indicated she would support a medical marijuana program – so long as it controlled the legal supply of marijuana by requiring patients to buy it from dispensaries instead of allowing them to grow it themselves.

“By providing strong regulatory oversight and clear dispensing guidelines, this bill addresses many of the concerns that were expressed throughout the legislative process,” Hassan said yesterday.

The bill did initially contain a home-grow option, and passed the Democratic-led House on a 286-64 vote in March. The Republican-led Senate, at Hassan’s request, removed that provision and several others before passing the bill in May on a 18-6 vote.

The final version, which did not contain the home-grow option, passed both chambers last month, the Senate on a voice vote and the House on a 284-66 vote.

“This legislation is long overdue and comes as a relief to the many seriously ill patients throughout New Hampshire who will benefit from safe access to medical marijuana,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. “Those suffering from debilitating conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis deserve legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana.”

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But in 1996, California became the first state to legalize the medical use of the drug by ballot proposition, and other states have followed suit.

New Hampshire is the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana, and the last of the six New England states to do so. Medicinal use of cannabis is also legal in the District of Columbia, and Maryland will become the 20th state when its law, which passed this spring, takes effect Oct. 1.

Under New Hampshire’s program, seriously ill or terminal patients can use marijuana to ease their pain and other symptoms. Cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic pancreatitis, a spinal cord injury or disease and traumatic brain injury are all qualifying conditions, as is any injury “that significantly interferes with daily activities as documented by the patient’s provider.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments6

Thank You Governor Hassen, This may be an option for myself and other with disabilities like mine. I have had multiple surgeries over the years on my back and neck, and have developed more issues due to the years of physical abuse to my back. I live with permanent nerve damage which has lead to getting a spinal cord stimulator installed and with recent CT Scans showing new damage to my spinal cord which has been causing increased pain and difficulty with my arm and legs. The medication I'm on now causes liver damage among other internal problems as well as a nauseous feeling at times. I hope to get relief some day and some what of a normal life again. Most people don't know what you are going through until it happens to them, It has been over 7 years or trying to get better and now learning I'll be looking at more up coming surgeries and the possibility of a wheel chair. We will always have critics some who don't do research but rather go the way of judgement without knowledge.

Passage of this bill is mostly lip service for many who should be given access to this medication but will never be able to afford it. Limiting access by reducing the total number of dispensaries and restricting the amount of product each dispensary can produce is clearly not in the interest of NH's patients. This being said IN believe we should thank Governor Hassan for her noble effort just the same.

OK, Thank you Governor Hassan in advance, for the many lives this will ruin.

Waltham, please tell me how it is you think lives will be ruined? Are you afraid that this "gateway drug" is going to turn cancer patients into heroin addicts? Do you believe the myth that medical marijuana dispensaries increase criminal activities in that area? Perhaps I've misinterpreted your meaning. Perhaps you believe, as I do, that "the many lives this will ruin" is due to the lack of a "home grow" option in the law.

I'm not worried about cancer patients. I'm worried about teens, adults and car accidents. Also, why marijuana dispensaries? If you have a prescription, why not go to a drugstore to get it filled? Maybe because there are so many cancer patients in NH?

Maggie ought to put a marijuana kiosk, on the state house lawn.

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