N.H. Senate Panel Removes Home-Grow Option

May 8, 2013

A Sen­ate com­mit­tee yes­ter­day endorsed med­ical mar­i­juana leg­is­la­tion that passed the House ear­lier this year, but removed a pro­vi­sion opposed by Gov. Mag­gie Has­san that would have allowed patients to grow their own cannabis. Sen. Nancy Stiles, a Hamp­ton Repub­li­can and chair­woman of the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion and Human Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said she met Mon­day with Hassan’s legal coun­sel, Lucy Hod­der, and elim­i­nated ele­ments of the bill Has­san won’t sup­port. “I think the impor­tant thing in this process is to get leg­is­la­tion moved for­ward so that we can begin to help our cit­i­zens that are crit­i­cally ill, and start out with a small process that can be expanded later on if we find that it’s not meet­ing all of the needs,” Stiles said. After an hour of dis­cus­sion, the com­mit­tee voted, 5–0, to rec­om­mend the full Sen­ate pass the amended bill, which would allow seri­ously ill or ter­mi­nal patients with can­cer and other spec­i­fied con­di­tions to acquire mar­i­juana from spe­cial dis­pen­saries to treat symp­toms includ­ing pain and weight loss. The bill next heads to the Sen­ate floor for a vote. Med­ical mar­i­juana advo­cates are unhappy with the removal of the home-grow option. Matt Simon, a lob­by­ist for the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project, said dis­pen­saries could take at least two years to get up and run­ning, and New Hamp­shire patients in the mean­time would be left with­out a legal option to acquire mar­i­juana. Simon said sup­port­ers are open to some sort of com­pro­mise, such as attach­ing a “sun­set” clause to a home-grow option that would repeal it after three years. “That is the stick­ing point, polit­i­cally, in this bill,” Simon said. “Let’s let patients grow their own for two or three years while dis­pen­saries can get up and run­ning.” But Rep. Donna Schlach­man, an Exeter Demo­c­rat and the legislation’s prime spon­sor, said sup­port­ers don’t want to scut­tle the bill even if they don’t like every­thing in the final ver­sion. “We know we’re going to pass some­thing,” she told reporters fol­low­ing the committee’s vote yes­ter­day. “Right now, our biggest con­cern is whether we’re pass­ing some­thing that meets the needs of patients imme­di­ately who … have been wait­ing a long time for legal access to some­thing that is crit­i­cally impor­tant to their health and well-being, given the med­ical chal­lenges that they face.” Hassan’s spokesman, Marc Gold­berg, said the Sen­ate committee’s changes “rep­re­sent sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments and help address the governor’s con­cerns” about the bill as it was approved March 20 by the House on a 286–64 vote. He didn’t rule out addi­tional changes. “Gov. Has­san looks for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the dia­logue with leg­is­la­tors and all stake­hold­ers as the leg­is­la­tion moves for­ward, and she is always will­ing to lis­ten to con­struc­tive ideas, while keep­ing in mind the goal of appro­pri­ately reg­u­lated use of med­ical mar­i­juana with con­trolled dis­pens­ing,” Gold­berg said. Bill Tight­ened The Sen­ate com­mit­tee yes­ter­day made a num­ber of changes to the bill, in addi­tion to elim­i­nat­ing the home-grow option. Among other things, the panel: *  Elim­i­nated post-traumatic stress dis­or­der from the list of con­di­tions mak­ing a patient eli­gi­ble for mar­i­juana use. *  Added a require­ment that patients get writ­ten per­mis­sion from a prop­erty owner before using mar­i­juana on pri­vately owned land. *  Reduced the max­i­mum num­ber of mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries, called “alter­na­tive treat­ment cen­ters,” from five to four. *  Required the alter­na­tive treat­ment cen­ters to obtain lia­bil­ity insur­ance. *  Lim­ited the bill’s pro­vi­sion for an “affir­ma­tive defense” in court against marijuana-related charges to patients with a valid state-issued reg­istry card or their card-issued des­ig­nated care­givers. “This is very tight and very reg­u­lated,” said Sen. Molly Kelly, a Keene Demo­c­rat. Assum­ing the bill passes the Sen­ate in its cur­rent form, Schlach­man said nego­tia­tors from the House and Sen­ate will ham­mer out a final ver­sion in a com­mit­tee of con­fer­ence. “We will def­i­nitely pro­vide some­thing that the gov­er­nor can sup­port,” she said. Med­ical mar­i­juana bills have passed the Leg­is­la­ture twice in the last four years, but both times were vetoed by then-Gov. John Lynch, a Demo­c­rat. By con­trast, Has­san, also a Demo­c­rat, sup­ports enact­ing a med­ical mar­i­juana law in New Hamp­shire. “I want to empha­size how grate­ful I am to have a gov­er­nor who has gone on record in sup­port of the use of ther­a­peu­tic cannabis. I think that’s crit­i­cally impor­tant,” Schlach­man said. Eigh­teen states plus the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have legal­ized the med­ical use of mar­i­juana since 1996, includ­ing the other five New Eng­land states, accord­ing to the National Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures. Source: Con­cord Mon­i­tor (NH) Author: Ben Leub­s­dorf, Mon­i­tor Staff Pub­lished: May 7, 2012 Copy­right: 2013 Mon­i­tor Pub­lish­ing Com­pany Con­tact: letters@​cmonitor.​com Web­site: http://​www​.con​cord​mon​i​tor​.com

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N.H. Sen­ate Panel Removes Home-Grow Option

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