CONCORD — With little discussion, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to allow chronically and terminally ill patients to use marijuana if other drugs prove ineffective.
The Senate voted 18-6 Thursday to approve House Bill 573, which establishes a medical marijuana program for New Hampshire patients who are both chronically ill and exhibit certain symptoms, and who have had the same physician for more than three months.
However, medical marijuana patients will not be able to grow their own plants. The Senate bowed to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s concerns and removed those provisions from the bill. She also sought and a Senate committee agreed to eliminate post traumatic stress syndrome from the program.
New Hampshire would be the 19th state to allow medical marijuana and the last in New England.
Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, said Maine has had medical marijuana for 14 years and has not had any problems.
“We will not be California or Colorado or Washington State,” said Reagan. “This is a New Hampshire law to help New Hampshire patients.”
With the home-grow provision striped from the bill, supporters said it no longer addresses people needing immediate help with pain and suffering.
“The amendments made at the behest of our governor will leave patients out in the cold for at least two years, having to choose between needlessly suffering or turning to the underground market to find their medicine,” said Matt Simon, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Patients will continue to make the case to Gov. Hassan for why this bill needs to be substantially improved, and she has said she will continue to listen.”
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.
While many supporters balked at Hassan’s requests, they said it is important to pass a medical marijuana bill this session.
Lawmakers have approved medical marijuana in the past, only to have former Gov. John Lynch veto the bills and legislators fail to override.
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.
The Senate version of HB 573 reduces from six to two ounces of marijuana that could be dispensed at one time.
And the Senate version requires medical marijuana patients who are renters to receive their landlord’s written permission to use the drug on their premises or a relative’s permission if they are visiting, and also their employers’ permission.
The House approved its version of the bill on a 286-64 vote in March.