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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cannabis Care: From UNH to Statehouse, intern helps draft NH’s marijuana legislation

Back when Tyler Clark was snacking on a bean-filled burrito at UNH while listening to a lecture about the U.S. war on drugs, he had no idea one day he’d help write HB 573, the state’s landmark medical marijuana bill.

Clark, who graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in political science, was accepted into an internship program at the Statehouse during the spring semester, when he had the opportunity to work for a few senators, including Republican John Reagan, a co-sponsor of the state’s medical marijuana legislation. ...

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Back when Tyler Clark was snacking on a bean-filled burrito at UNH while listening to a lecture about the U.S. war on drugs, he had no idea one day he’d help write HB 573, the state’s landmark medical marijuana bill.

Clark, who graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in political science, was accepted into an internship program at the Statehouse during the spring semester, when he had the opportunity to work for a few senators, including Republican John Reagan, a co-sponsor of the state’s medical marijuana legislation.

Clark performed a number of duties, including answering phone calls, conducting research and responding to emails, but one of his most important jobs was comparing HB 573 with Maine’s legislation.

“I would compare between the two, take notes on the similarities and differences, and give my research to Senator Reagan,” said Clark, a member of Young Americans for Liberty and UNH NORML/Students for Sensible Drug Policy while on campus.

The NORML organization, pronounced “normal,” stands for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“I remember a couple of my friends and I went because a taco truck, who was sponsoring the event, was handing out free food,” Clark said. “We ended up staying and listening to the speech, which is how I first got involved with the NORML club at UNH.”

The club was created at UNH in 2009 by a couple of friends their sophomore year to spur dialogue on campus and offer informational resources to students.

During Clark’s involvement with NORML, he attended two national conferences in Denver and Washington, D.C., that were hosted by Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an organization that brings young people of all political backgrounds together to have honest conversations about drugs and drug policy.

Clark also listened to guest speakers such as Kevin Booth , who screened the documentary film “American Drug War,” and Matt Simon , a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“We were able to meet them, take pictures with them and most importantly, ask them questions,” Clark said.

Because of Clark’s interest in the medical marijuana legislation, he chose to work on that bill for the semester.

“At the beginning of my internship, I was sent to a marijuana dispensary in Maine,” Clark said. “While I was there, I took notes for Reagan that I later handed over to him. The notes included things like their daily operations, mission statements and the regulations they had to follow.”

When Clark returned from the dispensary, Reagan asked him to compare Maine’s marijuana bill to New Hampshire’s current bill.

“All I really did was compare the bills,” Clark said. “It was fairly easy.”

There were a lot of things that varied between the bills, but one of the biggest differences for Clark was the part that referred to caregivers.

In Maine, a patient is allowed to grow up to six plants in his or her home or is able to have a caregiver grow the plants.

In New Hampshire, the proposed bill denies patients and caregivers the right to grow marijuana, and says a caregiver must have an identification card to pick up the drug at a dispensary.

“As a political science major, the internship was the best thing I could do,” Clark said. “It gave me a hands-on point of view of how legislation gets passed. You can read about it, but you get to see it firsthand here.”

Clark currently works in the senate clerk’s office, and he would like to stay active in politics.

“The internship was a really great opportunity that opened many doors for me,” Clark said. “It was awesome seeing the bill come to life.”

Lauren Lawrence can be reached at 594-6466 or llawrence@nashua
telegraph.com.