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Medical marijuana, voter ID bills yet to reach Hassan’s desk

Seriously ill New Hampshire residents anxious for Gov. Maggie Hassan to sign a law legalizing marijuana use to treat their illnesses will have to wait a little longer.

The Legislature passed the bill – which would let patients with cancer and other conditions possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana obtained from dispensaries – on June 26, but it is among more than three dozen bills yet to reach her desk.

House Speaker Terie Norelli has the bill on her desk and is expected to sign it and send it to Senate President Peter Bragdon this week. Once he signs the bill it will go to the governor.

Unlike the governor, who has five days excluding holidays and Sundays to act on a bill, the speaker and president have no deadline to sign off – though they cannot hold onto a bill indefinitely.

A spokesman for Norelli, a Democrat from Portsmouth, said she was traveling last week and will sign the medical marijuana bill and others this week.

Hassan has said she will sign the medical marijuana bill when it reaches her. It will take effect with her signature, but getting the program operating could take up to two years. The bill calls for a commission implementing the new system to be appointed as soon as possible.

The bill will make New Hampshire the 19th state to legalize possession and use of the drug. Under the bill, up to four dispensaries can be licensed and have a maximum of 80 marijuana plants, 160 seedlings and 80 ounces of marijuana or 6 ounces per qualifying patient. They also would have a limit of three mature cannabis plants, 12 seedlings and 6 ounces for each patient who designates the dispensary as a treatment center.

The compromise passed last month eliminated an option for patients to also grow marijuana at home. Home-grow option supporters had argued some patients need legal access to the drug now and waiting for dispensaries to start operating put them through needless suffering, but Hassan said she wouldn’t sign the bill if it included those provisions.

To qualify for medical marijuana, New Hampshire residents would have to have been a patient of the prescribing doctor for at least 90 days, have tried other remedies and have exhibited certain symptoms.

Other bills that have yet to reach Hassan include one that changes a voter photo identification law adopted last session and another that reinstates a modified version of a program for troubled youth that was cut severely last session.

Under the voter ID bill, valid student identification will be allowed if the card is issued by a college or career school in New Hampshire or a New Hampshire high school. Student IDs can be expired but the expiration date must have been within five years. Current law ends acceptance of student IDs on Sept. 1.

The bill postpones until 2015 a requirement for people who sign an affidavit instead of presenting an acceptable ID to have their picture taken at the polls.

Moderators also can verify a person’s identity or allow IDs not specified by law.

The bill reinstating some services for troubled youth isn’t identical to the old program that provided counseling and other services. The biggest proposed change is that parents and the youth would have access to services voluntarily without requiring a court order. The courts could still intervene in certain cases.

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