Monday, November 24, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;65.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/sct.png;2014-11-24 16:26:25
Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 stories of the year #8: Governor signs law legalizing therapeutic marijuana in NH

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN

Staff Writer

NASHUA – When John Lynch was governor, you had to be high to think New Hampshire would become a state that made it legal for sick patients to legally get marijuana to alleviate pain.

Lynch, a Democrat, owed a political deb`t to law enforcement since its leaders had turned on then-Republican Gov. Craig Benson in 2004 and helped make him the first governor in 80 years to be denied a second term. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

NASHUA – When John Lynch was governor, you had to be high to think New Hampshire would become a state that made it legal for sick patients to legally get marijuana to alleviate pain.

Lynch, a Democrat, owed a political deb`t to law enforcement since its leaders had turned on then-Republican Gov. Craig Benson in 2004 and helped make him the first governor in 80 years to be denied a second term.

Local and state police leaders didn’t want marijuana to be legalized in any form while it remained illegal under federal law.

Lynch voluntarily left the stage in January and medical marijuana advocates wasted no time seizing on the new-found opportunity.

The passage of a new law in June made New Hampshire the 19th state for those with cancer, muscular dystrophy and other painful conditions to smoke, eat or inhale cannabis sativa with impunity.

Supporters had mobilized a small army of ill patients who told their compelling stories and the politically-divided, New Hampshire Legislature responded.

Both the Democratic-led House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled State Senate adopted their own versions of the reform with better than 3-1 margins.

This had happened before, only to be dashed on the rocks of a corner-office veto.

With Democrat Maggie Hassan in Lynch’s old chair that wasn’t an issue: as Senate majority leader she had voted twice for medical marijuana.

However, there was another catch:

Hassan said she could not support the House-preferred option to allow patients to grow their own plants. She wanted the drug available only from

non-profit, licensed care centers.

Supporters had also hoped to include in this final version an affirmative defense to prevent patients from being charged for criminal possession before these dispensaries are set up.

Hassan insisted that provision come out as well.

Those leading the state chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project also employed more political pragmatism than in the past.

With lawmakers squarely behind them, State Director Matt Simon said the group tried to be accommodating as possible to meet Hassan’s concerns rather than with Lynch to try to overcome them with a veto override fight.

“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,” Simon said.

Patients can possess up to two ounces of marijuana if their doctors recommend they should have it.

It will take up to two years to regulate, locate and build the five care centers. After they are open, it will cost patients $200 to $400 a month to procure the drug.

Someone who can obtain marijuana for up to nine patients as long as the caregiver is 21, has never been convicted of a felony and obtains a valid, state-issued registry card. They may be paid for services provided to those patients.

Even qualified patients can be fined or sanctioned for using it illegally,

if there’s evidence the marijuana was not used to treat the medical condition, if it was given to someone else or is used in a car, boat or even outside the home without their state-issued registry card.

Simon and other advocates wanted and got a high-powered advisory council created with this new law. They hope to prod state regulators to meet the deadlines for getting these centers open and collects evidence to one day give patients the right to grow their own “weed.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).