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May 12. 2013 3:26PM

Your Turn, NH: Gov. Hassan, do you care about the severely disabled like me?

As a 28-year-old battling muscular dystrophy, I’ve been fighting for my life since I lost my ability to walk at age 10.

I spent a summer in California several years ago, so I know from personal experience that medical marijuana works for me. In the months that I was able to use it legally, I gained more than 10 pounds and was able to stop taking prescription pain medicines altogether. There is no cure for my condition, but medical marijuana relieves my pain and stimulates my appetite, dramatically improving my quality of life when I’m able to use it.

I have spent the better part of a decade asking New Hampshire legislators to allow patients like me to use medical marijuana, and it finally appears that a medical marijuana bill is going to pass this year. Unfortunately, it appears this law may not be of any benefit to patients like me who are currently fighting for our lives.

House Bill 573, which passed overwhelmingly in the House, allows patients to access medical marijuana from one of five state-regulated alternative treatment centers — or grow up to three cannabis plants. The centers will not begin serving patients for at least two years, and many patients, including myself, cannot wait that long for relief. Thus, it is critical that we be allowed to grow for ourselves or designate a caregiver to do so for us, as the bill allows.

Sadly, Gov. Maggie Hassan is now insisting that home cultivation be removed from the bill before she will be willing to sign it, and a Senate committee has done just that. This means that patients will continue to suffer without legal access. Frankly, I do not expect to live another two years, so for me this may as well be a death sentence.

A few weeks ago, a small group of patients and I met with Gov. Hassan in her office. We explained that patients like us need to be able to grow our own plants or else we will have no legal means of obtaining it prior to the alternative treatment centers opening. I thought Gov. Hassan was listening, but I guess she must have found the police chiefs’ arguments more persuasive than mine.

This makes no sense. For more than a decade, states across the nation with medical marijuana laws have allowed patients to grow their own plants. Our neighbors in Maine have been doing so since 1999 and in Vermont since 2004. If it had resulted in any significant problems, I am sure we would have heard about them here in New Hampshire. We have not.

Meanwhile, in states such as New Jersey and Delaware, where they have adopted medical marijuana laws that do not allow for home cultivation, many patients are still being left out in the cold. In New Jersey, it took nearly three years for one alternative treatment center to begin serving patients. In Delaware, it has been two years since the law passed, and they have yet to develop rules for the centers.

I hope these centers will develop into a great option for patients in New Hampshire, but until they are registered and opened, they are little more than a great idea. Sadly, patients such as me do not have the time to wait for them to come into fruition. My weight has dropped to 66 pounds, my condition is worsening, and I have already had too many bad experiences buying and using marijuana from the illegal market.

Gov. Hassan should reconsider this awful decision. I am not a criminal, and it’s insane that a person in my situation should have to break the law in order to obtain medical marijuana.

Clayton Holton lives in Rochester.


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