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January 16. 2014 8:55PM

Proposed changes to medical marijuana law in Granite State would restrict its use

CONCORD — Proposed changes to the recently adopted medical marijuana law has the backing of law enforcement, but not its support for the program scheduled to begin next year.

However, the changes proposed in House Bill 1616 did not please advocates for the program who said those with the most need for the drug may not be able to secure enough of it to benefit.

At Thursday's public hearing before the House Health and Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Donald Wright, R-Moultonborough, said the changes add several diseases to a qualifying list for the program. Epilepsy, lupus and Parkinson's disease would be included as would dementia associated with Alzheimer's.

Wright noted the current law is narrow, and the changes would continue to make it narrower.

The bill would restrict qualifying patients to two ounces of marijuana every 30 days instead of every 10 days as lawmaker approved last year.

Several members of the committee and Matt Simon of Goffstown, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, opposed the change, saying some patients may not legally purchase enough marijuana to treat their symptoms.

Simon noted several New Hampshire residents who participated in a federal study received from seven to nine ounces per month.

He said two ounces a month would limit a patient's options to smoking it and not eating it or refining it to make concentrated oil as many cancer patients do.

The amount of the drug should be determined by a patient's physician Simon said.

Several committee members suggested an exception if a physician determines the patient is not receiving sufficient benefit from the allowable dose.

Physician and Rep. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, said he would like to see the limits addressed when the bill is revised so there is some way to allow a patient to purchase more marijuana if he or she needs it.

The bill also addresses concerns of law enforcement, which opposes the program, but State Police Maj. Russell Conte said the changes begin to close some of the loopholes in the law.

Under the bill, a patient or caregiver in a motor vehicle needs to keep the marijuana in a locked container or be subject to a Class A misdemeanor. Conte said people should not be driving under the influence of marijuana and locking it away is similar to the ban on open containers of alcohol.

Tuftonboro Police Chief Andy Shagoury said law enforcement would like to see one standard for both alcohol and marijuana.

grayno@unionleader.com


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