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Editorial: State should allow medical marijuana

To alleviate the suffering of the seriously sick and terminally ill, New Hampshire, should join the rest of the New England states and decriminalize the controlled use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The New Hampshire Medical Society, the state Department of Safety, the police chiefs association and attorney general all oppose legalizing the use of medical marijuana, but the concerns they cite aren’t weighty enough to tip the scales against the passage of Exeter Democratic Rep. Donna Schlachman’s bill. Eighteen states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and legislation is pending in eight more, including New Hampshire. What experience elsewhere shows is that to work as intended, and not lead to the proliferation of marijuana users, strict controls are required. Those controls should extend to patients, caregivers, marijuana dispensaries and physicians.

House Bill 537 proposes limiting the use of marijuana to patients suffering from a specific set of diseases or conditions: cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, HIV, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis. Missing from that list is chronic pain, a diagnosis that at least anecdotally has been blamed for making it easy for people to feign injury in order to convince a physician to prescribe marijuana.

Credible studies have shown that the active ingredient in marijuana does relieve pain in some people and may have an anti-inflammatory effect. The drug has also proven useful, in some people, in reducing extreme anxiety and permitting sleep. If, after a trial period, no significant level of abuse occurs with the legalization of medical marijuana, lawmakers should assume that the control system in place works. At that point, they should consider expanding the list of ailments for which marijuana may be prescribed.

The bill, as written, would allow patients with a prescription, and their caregiver, to possess up to four marijuana plants. Gov. Maggie Hassan, who supported the legal use of medical marijuana as a state senator, has concerns about that portion of the bill. It’s also the component that would be the most difficult to monitor and enforce. If stripping the cultivation provision from the bill makes its passage more likely, its sponsors should do so. Later, if marijuana from the five state-authorized dispensaries proves to be too expensive to provide relief to sufferers with a limited income, lawmakers could reconsider the grow-your-own provision.

Over the years, a long list of people with horrible illnesses or in terrible pain, their loved ones and their survivors, have trouped to the State House to plead with lawmakers. They want the ability to alleviate their suffering without becoming criminals. They want to obey the law but believe they have no choice but to break it. When they do, the legal system looks the other way out of compassion, as it should.

The Legislature shouldn’t punish citizens in pain because it lacks the wit or the will to create a system that allows them to access a source of relief without increasing the recreational use of marijuana. We’re confident such a system can be created. Lawmakers should pass House Bill 573 and Hassan should sign it.

Legacy Comments5

I would also like to see a reduction in human suffering. But like so many issues, its not as simple as "either you favorNopen access to marijuana or you want to see people suffer" A disingenuous argument. Marijuana is helpful in many conditions but there are many different subspecies and different alkaloids. We need to see patients get the right compound or combination and prevent the distribution of possible adulterated substances. Not unlike cigarettes with the myriad of contaminants added to speed addiction or introduce other drugs mixed in and unbeknownst to the user seeking medical relief. I'm OK with medical marijuana, if the issue and regulations are treated seriously.

Those are certainly valid concerns. But, however they work out, there is no point in punishing anyone who has done nothing more than to try to relieve their own suffering -- even if you disagree with their choice of medicine. So, whether you get the regs you want or not, the first step is to just leave these people alone. That's not to mention that the marijuana laws were absolute lunacy from the very beginning. There never was a good reason for the law and there would be no great calamity if the law suddenly just disappeared. Marijuana was originally outlawed for two major reasons. The first was because "All Mexicans are crazy and marijuana is what makes them crazy." The second was the fear that heroin addiction would lead to the use of marijuana -- exactly the opposite of the modern "gateway" idea. You can read about it at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/whiteb1.htm

Wm97 - Valid points also. Prohibition made as much sense for MJ as it did for alcohol. In part because of the potency of the agents MJ and alcohol are relatively low potency. What about high potency substances (any)? when people get into judgement altering substances (any) that impact others through accident or crime - then other people do have a right to engage. Honestly, I am sure sure how to construct a rational policy between those two poles. Have any?

Marijuana is being considered for legalization for medical use, it's not being introduced. To say it will increase use for recreational purposes is a Red Herring! AND, even if it did, let's compare it to what is legal and sold by the State on it's highways and in nearly every convenience store and Super Market. FACT Marijuana is less addictive and less harmful than Caffeine, let alone Alcohol and Tobacco; (3 Scientific Studies) BTW, Dr Henningfield is a former NIDA Staffer;. Addictiveness of Marijuana - ProCon.org. http://www.procon.org/view.background-resource.php?resourceID=1492

I have never heard anyone in my home state of California mention any negative impact of de-facto marijuana decriminalization. I just googled for it, and the best I could find was two Fox commentators saying without irony that pot makes you boring and stupid. They also said that it will mostly be used by the poor, forgetting to note that the rich use prescription sedatives, and everybody uses alcohol. http://video.foxnews.com/v/2111934587001/up-in-smoke-impact-of-legalizing-marijuana/ My only objection to HB537 is that the Democrats will get credit for it, because Lynch vetoed the Republicans' medical-marijuana bill in 2012.

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