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NH medical marijuana OK’d by legislature

CONCORD — With little discussion, the Senate and House voted overwhelmingly to allow chronically and terminally ill patients to use marijuana if other drugs prove ineffective.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she will sign the bill. When she does, New Hampshire will become the final New England state to establish a medical marijuana program and the 19th state along with Washington, D.C., with similar programs.

House Bill 573 establishes a medical marijuana program for New Hampshire patients who are both chronically ill and exhibit certain symptoms, and who have had the same physician for more than three months.

Earlier this session the Senate bowed to Hassan’s concerns and removed provisions from the bill allowing patients to grow their own plants. She also sought and the Senate agreed to eliminate post traumatic stress syndrome from the program.

The House and Senate agreed last week to a compromise bill that mirrored the Senate changes.

Sen. Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, praised the compromise and said it will provide “one more tool in the toolbox for people who are, unfortunately, suffering.”

The House approved the compromise agreement without debate.

“This legislation has been a long time coming and is a much-needed victory for those with serious illnesses who find significant relief in medical marijuana,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “People suffering from cancer and HIV/AIDS in New York and other states are just as deserving of sensible and compassionate laws as those here in New Hampshire.”

Under the bill, patients would purchase marijuana from four regional dispensaries. A person who qualifies for the program must have both a debilitating disease such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or hepatitis C, and conditions such as significant weight loss, severe pain or wasting syndrome.

Many medical marijuana supporters balked at Hassan’s requests, but said it is important to pass a medical marijuana bill this session. Lawmakers have approved medical marijuana in the past, only to have former Gov. John Lynch veto the bills and legislators fail to override.

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