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After successful lawsuit, Linda Horan becomes first N.H. resident to legally obtain medical marijuana



Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2015
A month after successfully suing New Hampshire and getting the state to issue its first medical marijuana ID card, Alstead resident Linda Horan sat in a bright conference room at the Wellness Connection dispensary in Portland, Maine, beaming Friday.

Horan suffers from terminal Stage IV lung cancer, weighs a little over 90 pounds and uses a wheelchair. But none of that mattered Friday as she proudly held up her registry card.

“I’m completely over the moon,” Horan said. “I knew this day would come. Now that it’s actually here, I’m overwhelmed.”

On the table in front of her lay four tightly sealed, 1-gram pouches of Indica and Sativa buds, a hemp-oil tincture to put on food and four assorted lemon crinkle and mint chocolate chip edible cookies, all meant to lift her mood and boost her appetite.

“I got a regular potpourri,” Horan said. “I got a little bit of everything. That was so fun, I was like a kid in a candy store.”

Horan made her selections Friday afternoon at Portland’s Wellness Connection, a large, cheerful dispensary with inviting displays, hip indie music playing in the background, and bright lime green walls with birch tree decals.

A chalkboard in the dispensary lobby showed the holiday-themed December specials: shortbread edibles, medicated hot chocolate mix and a single-day offer boasting one free edible to any patient wearing an ugly Christmas sweater.

New Hampshire’s long-
awaited dispensaries are set to open sometime in early 2016, but until they do, the state’s residents who are eligible to receive medical marijuana will soon join Horan in being able to buy it legally in Maine and other neighboring states such as Vermont and Massachusetts.

After Horan successfully sued the state, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office advised the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday to start issuing medical marijuana ID cards to qualifying patients, due to the ruling in Horan’s case handed down by Merrimack County Judge Richard McNamara in November.

“As a result of Linda’s pioneering lawsuit, there are scores, hundreds of patients right now that are waiting to get in the queue so that they can have access to medical marijuana,” said state Rep. Renny Cushing of Hampton, who has been a longtime advocate for Horan’s cause.

All eyes were on Horan once she sued, Cushing said, describing many New Hampshire state legislators frustrated between the lag time between the law’s passage and getting dispensaries up and running.

“The Legislature itself, from my understanding, was completely outraged that two and a half years after we passed the law legalizing medical marijuana that it had not been implemented,” he said.

Once registry cards are issued, qualifying New Hampshire patients can travel to neighboring states including Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, which all have dispensaries open, to obtain marijuana.

New Hampshire is set to open four dispensaries across the state in Plymouth, Lebanon, Merrimack and Dover and proposed cultivation sites in Peterborough, Manchester and Rochester.

Wellness Connection’s Portland dispensary is one of eight in Maine.

Under New Hampshire’s law, people suffering from diseases including cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease or multiple sclerosis can obtain medical marijuana at the dispensaries.

Horan said she was “thrilled” to hear about the decision to open up registry cards to other patients.

“I did feel that was the right result of our little adventure today,” she said. “I think having this become a reality today set the attorney general right.”

Horan said she especially hoped the marijuana she got on Friday would help boost her appetite, which has fallen sharply since her diagnosis. She has lost about 20 pounds since her diagnosis this summer, and said her 13-year-old granddaughter now weighs slightly more than she does.

“Just the fact that this will stimulate my appetite . . . I’m very happy,” Horan said. “I really feel like the wasting syndrome will begin to reverse itself pretty quickly.”

Horan and Becky DeKeuster, director of community and education at Wellness Connection, said the strains should help with pain management, relaxation and reducing anxiety.

Horan initially hoped to try medical marijuana to alleviate her symptoms in part because she didn’t want to be heavily medicated on strong opiates in her last months.

“I really had a hard time understanding why the state was against medical marijuana, seeing the opiate problem that we have,” she said. “I would have thought that (New Hampshire) would be anxious to eliminate as much opiate use as they could.”

DeKeuster said she hoped Horan’s visit could set an example for others.

“I would hope Linda and Renny take back to New Hampshire the idea of a well-managed, well-regulated dispensary as an option,” she said. “I think we can’t deny there are patients in New Hampshire who are accessing marijuana that they are using medicinally. They deserve to have a safe, clean source for their medicine.”

Because it was Horan’s first visit, DeKeuster said she would try out a few different kinds of strains to see which one worked best for her individual needs.

If she had her way, Horan admitted “I’d be sneaking into the back room right now” to try out the goods. But she was going to wait, making sure that her actions were complying with the necessary laws.

“These people made it so easy and so comfortable,” she said. “I felt so at ease. No anxiety today.”



(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)