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House says medical marijuana program needs work

Staff Report
February 12. 2014 9:55PM

CONCORD — The state’s yet-to-begin medical marijuana program would expand to include several other diseases but would limit the amount of cannabis a patient could purchase in a month.

But the House decided Wednesday House Bill 1616 needs some more work and will study its provisions for the rest of the year.

House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee chair Rep. James McKay, D-Concord, said new information had come up that had to be addressed.

Rep. Richard Meaney, R-Goffstown, said the bill had some “great components,” but the bill has “serious flaws” in one section.

He said the bill “makes it a crime to posess cannibis in a motor vehicle unless it is in a locked container. If the bill passes we will be turning patients into criminals.”

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.

The House went along with MacKay and Meaney and sent the bill to study.

Under the bill, epilepsy, lupus and Parkinson’s disease would be included as would dementia associated with Alzheimer’s.

However, the bill would restrict qualifying patients to two ounces of marijuana every 30 days instead of every 10 days as lawmaker approved last year and qualifying patients from other states would be restricted to two ounces of the drug as well.

The bill addresses concerns of law enforcement, which continues to oppose the program, but the changes begin to close some of the loopholes in the law said State Police Maj. Russell Conte at a public hearing on the bill last month.

Also the bill would allow police to seize all of a patient’s marijuana if he or she has more than two ounces, not just the amount over the limit.

The law allows patients or their designated caregivers to purchase up to two ounces of marijuana from four regional dispensaries.

To qualify for the program, a person 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.

Lawmakers approved medical marijuana in the past, only to have former Gov. John Lynch veto the bills.

Gov. Maggie Hassan supported a medical marijuana program as a state Senator and when she campaigned for governor in 2012.

However, she insisted lawmaker remove a home grow provision from the bill last year before she would sign it, which they did.

A House bill yet to come before the House, would allow patients and their caregivers to grow their own plants, which advocates say is necessary to reduce the costs for sufferers.

New Hampshire is one of 20 states, and Washington D.C., to have medical marijuana programs.

While the health committee will continue to work on the bill, it will be up to the next legislature if it wants to act on the recommendations.

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