Medical marijuana bill passes House with big, bipartisan majority
A medical marijuana bill is headed to the Senate after the House passed it yesterday with bipartisan support and a veto-proof majority.
The House endorsed the legislation on a 286-64 vote. Seven Democrats and 57 Republicans voted against the bill.
Similar legislation has passed the Legislature twice in the last four years. But those bills were both vetoed by then-Gov. John Lynch.
The prospects for this year’s bill seem better: Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat like Lynch, has said she supports medical marijuana.
But Hassan has also expressed concern about any legislation – such as the bill passed by the House yesterday – that would allow patients to grow their own marijuana, rather than buy it at a special dispensary.
“The governor believes any measure permitting the use of medically prescribed marijuana must ensure that the method of distribution is safe and tightly regulated and has concerns about the ability to properly regulate a home grow option,” said Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg in a statement, “but she will continue to listen to the concerns of advocates, law enforcement and legislators as the process moves forward.”
The bill endorsed by the Democratic-led House now goes to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 13-11 majority.
The legislation doesn’t use the term “medical marijuana,” instead referring only to “the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.”
It would limit the program to patients suffering significant weight loss, pain and other symptoms as a result of specific disorders: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic pancreatitis or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill would also let the commissioner of health and human services grant permission to other patients on a case-by-case basis.
Qualifying patients would be allowed to, with a written certification from their doctor, use marijuana to ease their symptoms. They could go to a dispensary, grow their own marijuana or have a caretaker grow marijuana for them.
The bill would also create an advisory board to oversee the program.
“This bill will not result in the California experience of a head shop on every corner. . . . This is a very tightly controlled bill for those patients who need this,” said Rep. Stephen Schmidt, a Wolfeboro Republican.
But strong objections were raised by Rep. John Cebrowski, a Bedford Republican who said medical marijuana is really a stalking horse for marijuana legalization. (The House voted last week to kill a bill legalizing marijuana.)
“America is currently a drug-soaked culture with both prescription and illegal drugs, with massive far-reaching consequences. This bill exacerbates the problem by spawning a homemade cottage industry, and will help to fuel an underground society,” Cebrowski said. “I do not want to be a part of the social and cultural disintegration of my state.”
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But medical marijuana laws are on the books in 18 states, including the other five New England states, as well as the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
email@example.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)