CONCORD— New Hampshire joins 18 other states, including all its New England neighbors, with a medical marijuana program for the terminally and chronically ill.
Gov. Maggie Hassan signed House Bill 573 into law Tuesday. Earlier this year, the Senate bowed to Hassan's concerns and eliminated provisions allowing patients to grow their own plants. Under the bill, patients would purchase marijuana from four regional dispensaries. The House's version of the bill included the home-grow provision and had five regional dispensaries.
"Allowing doctors to provide relief to patients through the use of appropriately regulated and dispensed medical marijuana is the compassionate and right policy for the state of New Hampshire, and this legislation ensures that we approach this policy in the right way with measures to prevent abuse," Hassan said in a statement.
Proponents of home grow say removing the provision means patients suffering today will not have relief for two years — until the dispensaries are set up and approved by the Department of Health and Human Services. Many medical marijuana supporters balked at Hassan's requests, but said it is important to pass a medical marijuana bill this session.
"This legislation is long overdue and comes as a relief to the many seriously ill patients throughout New Hampshire who will benefit from safe access to medical marijuana," said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Those suffering from debilitating conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis deserve legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana."
Lawmakers have approved medical marijuana in the past, only to have former Gov. John Lynch veto the bills. Hassan supported a medical marijuana program when she campaigned for governor in 2012.
Under the bill, 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. Patients must have had the same physician for more than three months.
The bill allows the patient or caregiver to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, the same amount that could be dispensed at one time at the dispensaries. The the bill also requires medical marijuana patients to seek written approval of their landlords, relatives or employees to use marijuana on their premises.