Striking a Deal
New Hampshire is closer to becoming the next state to allow medical marijuana. Both houses of the state Legislature have agreed on the terms of a legalization bill set to go before Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. The state House had already approved the legislation, as had the Senate. But conflicting language in the houses’ separate versions of the bill kept it from advancing to the governor.
On June 18 members of both houses struck a deal that removes a House provision allowing patients to grow their own pot at home. In return, the House won a provision ensuring the system’s oversight commission will be appointed immediately. The lack of a home-grow provision could cause serious problems for some patients. Supporters say the terminally ill may not be able to wait while the system gets on its feet – a process that could take two years or more. Dispensaries may also be hard for some patients to reach, especially in rural areas. Hassan has said she wouldn’t sign the bill if it contained a home-grow option.
The New Hampshire legislation allows patients with debilitating medical conditions (cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-C, ALS, and a number of others) to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana. During negotiations with their Senate colleagues, House members agreed to remove post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the qualifying conditions.
Under the bill, dispensaries would be limited to 80 plants and 160 seedlings each, and couldn’t keep more than 80 ounces of pot, or 6 ounces per patient. A dispensary could have no more than three plants, 12 seedlings and 6 ounces for each patient who selects it as her treatment center. A patient would need to see a doctor for at least 90 days to obtain a recommendation. Patients must try other treatments first, and they must show specific symptoms. Legal medical marijuana is limited to New Hampshire residents.
The Nineteenth State
Hassan told the Associated Press she was satisfied with the compromises and planned to sign the bill once the two houses formally approve the amended legislation. If the reconciled bill passes and Hassan signs it, New Hampshire will become the 19th state to legalize medical weed. Colorado and Washington, which previously allowed medicinal weed, went one step further and legalized recreational pot in November. Washington, D.C., is also preparing for medical marijuana.
With New Hampshire, all of New England would allow medical pot. On the upper Atlantic Seaboard, only Maryland and New York have not legalized marijuana in some form. The West Coast presents a similar picture. And growing swatches of the interior of the country have switched to medical pot. The trend toward liberalization of marijuana is clear. The question may only be which state is next, and which state after that. The Illinois Legislature approved medical weed in May, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to signal whether he’ll sign it. Medical marijuana legislation is up for consideration in several other states, including New York, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania.