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Medical marijuana wait frustrates NH patients

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 12. 2014 10:06PM

Owen Launier, 7, and his older brother. Owen's parents, Scott and Cindy Launier of Manchester, are interested in having access to cannabis oil to help treat Owen's rare epilepsy. (COURTESY)

The state legalized medical marijuana last summer, but progress on the regulatory framework being built for the law is agonizingly slow for those eager to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

Scott and Cynthia Launier want cannabis oil to help treat their 7-year-old son, Owen, for a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. They are even considering moving to Colorado for quicker access to Charlotte's Web, a strain of marijuana extract found to help limit seizures.

The state continues to draft rules to implement the medical marijuana law. However, the way the law reads now, the first qualified patients and caregivers will not get access until the summer of 2015 at the earliest.

"In my opinion, they're dragging this along," said Scott Launier of Manchester.An advisory opinion from the Attorney General's Office further irks medical marijuana advocates. It concluded the state should not issue patient and caregiver identification cards until a lawful source of cannabis is established.

Matt Simon, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the ID cards are important because they would protect a qualifying patient from arrest if they were caught with less than 2 ounces of cannabis.

State Sen. John Reagan, a Deerfield Republican who co-sponsored the medical marijuana law, said it was not legislative intent to force patients to wait until 2015 or later for legal protection.

"These patients have already been waiting far too long for relief, and there's no good reason for any further delay," Reagan said in a news release objecting to the AG's advisory opinion.

The New Hampshire Legislature is considering another bill to allow qualifying patients and caregivers to cultivate cannabis for therapeutic use. House Bill 1622 would permit up to two mature plants and 12 immature plants or seedlings, with the "cultivation location" being a locked and enclosed site registered with the state.

The bill would also expand qualifying medical conditions, including epilepsy, lupus, Parkinson's disease and dementia related to Alzheimer's disease. The House passed the bill 227-73 earlier this month; it now goes to the state Senate.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is accepting advance public comment on proposed rules for the therapeutic use of cannabis until this Friday. An additional public comment period, including a public hearing, will be scheduled during the formal rule-making process.

The draft rules cover a number of factors, including the application process, health care provider requirements, and a petition process for conditions not listed as a qualifying medical condition.

Time is of the essence, Scott Launier said. He said his son is on five or six medications now; the edible form of the cannabis oil could be of great benefit.

More than 100 families with children battling health conditions or diseases have relocated to Colorado over the past year for access to medical marijuana, CNN reported this week. The cannabis oil has been an effective treatment for seizures, parents told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Launier watched the CNN report. He hopes state leaders and regulators watch it as well. He believes it would send a clear message, that they should "hurry up and do what they have to do to help our kids."

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