CONCORD — The chronically ill who qualify to receive medical marijuana would get it without a waiting period with legislation the state Senate initially approved Thursday.
The bill (SB 88) also would eliminate the need for these consumers to have their picture on an identification card they must receive from the state that certifies them as eligible to receive the drug.
But the Senate by an overwhelming margin opposed letting these patients get therapeutic cannabis for up to three years without a doctor reviewing that case.
State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, said as a physician he doesn’t believe it would be safe for patients to go that long without seeing a doctor. He said the customary one-year prescription limit for most medications is an appropriate one.
“I want to keep a close eye on those patients who are on it,” Sherman said, adding there’s little scientific research about side effects because it’s illegal under federal law to possess it. “You also want to make sure the patient’s condition hasn’t changed.”
Under current law, patients have to wait at least 90 days after being certified before they can get the drug unless the patient already has a relationship with a doctor of that same length.
Sherman agreed that New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law, first adopted in 2013, was at that time one of the most restrictive in the country.
Removing this waiting limit remains a “significant barrier” for patients who get pain relief by using it, he said.
There was debate over eliminating the photo requirement for the ID card.
Sen. Robert Guida, R-Warren, said removing that picture would make the card even more likely to be stolen or used by someone else to illegally obtain marijuana.
“We are dealing with a substance that is highly sought after,” Guida said.
Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said law enforcement doesn’t have a database on who these patients are and the ID card is helpful for them to determine if someone legally has marijuana.
And Sen. David Starr, R-Franconia, said he was bothered that state health officials told lawmakers that it was a regulatory burden to produce a separate photo ID for these patients.
“Cannon Mountain has put pictures on season tickets for 10 years,” Starr said, referring to the state-owned ski resort in his district. “I don’t understand why the department of pot IDs can’t manage the same thing.”
But Sen. Jim Kahn, D-Keene, said these patients still must produce a driver’s license or state ID with their picture on it to be certified as an eligible applicant and to purchase it at a dispensary.
The Senate voted 15-9 to eliminate the photo requirement and the bill was sent to its Finance Committee for further review.