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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cannabis Care: Can NH patients get medical marijuana in other states? Not really

While New Hampshire patients wait for marijuana dispensaries to be established in this state, a process that may take years, it’s easy to wonder whether they could just drive over the border and get their doctor’s order filled at dispensaries already up and running in neighboring states.

The answer? Not really. ...

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While New Hampshire patients wait for marijuana dispensaries to be established in this state, a process that may take years, it’s easy to wonder whether they could just drive over the border and get their doctor’s order filled at dispensaries already up and running in neighboring states.

The answer? Not really.

The only possibility is Maine, whose medical marijuana law includes a “reciprocity clause” that allows out-of-state residents to get marijuana.

However, this is allowed only if you have a medical certificate from a physician or osteopath certified to practice in Maine. It’s not enough to have a certificate from your own doctor in New Hampshire; you’d have to establish a relationship with a Maine doctor, which at a minimum would include office visits.

That clause was designed “to allow people who summer in Maine, or college students, to get (marijuana),” said Marietta D’Agostino, director of the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program. “We’re certainly not looking to have people drive up for the day to get it.”

Heading west instead of east won’t help: While Vermont’s medical marijuana law allows certificates from New Hampshire doctors, it is limited to Vermont residents only.

Massachusetts may have dispensaries operating by next year, but it is also limited to state residents.

New Hampshire’s law, incidentally, is confusing on this issue. It says out-of-state patients with valid paperwork from their doctors can legally possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana in New Hampshire – but it also says they can’t buy it here, and since all states with medical marijuana forbid its transport across state lines, it’s not clear how they would possess it.

Further, if they have pot here, it’s no good to them: Out-of-staters cannot use marijuana in this state nor give it away, even if they have valid medical documents.

What else should you know about medical marijuana laws in New Hampshire’s neighbors? Here are some details.

Maine

The Pine Tree State is far ahead of anybody else in the Northeast when it comes to medical marijuana, which has been legal there since 1999 – although it didn’t really exist until voters passed a statewide referendum in 2009 that led to dispensaries.

Its law is much less restrictive than New Hampshire’s:

Maine allows marijuana to be grown outside of dispensaries, although details about this “home-grown” option are still being debated.

State regulators, for example, want to require that all marijuana be grown in enclosed, locked facilities surrounded by fences at least 8 feet tall that “completely obscure the view” of the growing marijuana, with motion-activated lights as a theft prevention measure.

The list of conditions that make a patient eligible for marijuana is far longer than in New Hampshire, covering not just diseases with chronic nausea and pain – the symptoms that cannabis is best known to help – like cancer, glaucoma and AIDS.

This year, the Maine legislature expanded the list to add post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a disease that was specifically removed from New Hampshire’s list during legislative debate in Concord. They also added inflammatory bowel disease and “dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders” such as Parkinson’s.

Even though Maine is far ahead of the rest of New England, data about recent usage of medical marijuana is still being compiled. A March 2011 report said more than 2,200 patients were registered in the program. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The previous sentence has been edited; the number was previously incorrect.)

A new report is due out soon.

Vermont

The Green Mountain State passed a medical marijuana law in May 2011, but its first dispensaries only opened in June of this year.

Four dispensaries are allowed in the state. Two are open: one in Burlington and one in the capital, Montpelier. A third, near Rutland, should open this year.

Marijuana can be grown at home. “No more than two mature marijuana plants and seven immature plants” can be grown at a time, and they must be in a “single secure indoor facility” that can be accessed only by the patient or caregiver. The location of this facility must be disclosed in advance.

Patients can get on the statewide registry if their doctor certifies that they have cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, or a disease that is “chronic, debilitating and produces severe, persistent, and one or more of the following intractable symptoms: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe pain or nausea or seizures.”

Massachusetts

In November 2012, Bay State voters approved a ballot question that allows qualifying patients to use medical marijuana, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is in the process of drawing up rules.

The law allows up to 35 dispensaries around the state; some could be licensed by the end of 2013 and might open early next year, although many details are being debated – including fees that must be paid to the state.

Marijuana cannot generally be grown at home, unless patients receive a “cultivation registration” certificate that lets them to grow a “60-day supply” if they have financial hardship or cannot get to a marijuana dispensary. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The previous sentence has been edited; it previously did not mention the hardship option.)

The law says people with certain “debilitating medical conditions,” including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or other conditions determined by a doctor, can obtain a registration card and possess up to a 60-day supply of marijuana.

Quebec

Canada has had medical marijuana in various forms for more than a decade, but it still remains controversial.

It also remains out-of-bounds to U.S. citizens: Cross-border medical marijuana trips aren’t feasible.

In recent years, the situation has become more like that in the U.S.

Previously, homegrown marijuana was relatively common in Canada – more than 30,000 permits have been issued to grow it throughout the country, dating back as far as 2002 – but in July of this year, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said no more permits will be issued to individuals to grow medical marijuana.

Instead, the federal government will choose private contractors to produce medical marijuana, for which a patient must have a doctor’s order.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).