CONCORD — The Legislature overrode Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of a medical marijuana bill on Thursday, marking just the second override of 2019.
The override ends the mandate that patients have a three-month provider relationship before they got the pain-relieving drug.
State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye and a licensed gastroenterologist, said patients don’t have any wait to get opioids, antipsychotics or many other medications with far more serious side effects than marijuana.
Making those with chronic pain wait means they could get addicted to painkillers and that increases the risk of overdose, Sherman said
“With therapeutic cannabis, we are waiting three months. What do we call that? Malpractice, delay of care. This is a good bill,” Sherman said.
“We are not practicing appropriate medicine in many of these cases.”
The bill still requires a patient to have a provider relationship but removes the artificial waiting period.
Critics like Sens. Robert Giuda, R-Warren, and Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, pointed out neither the American Medical Association or the Food and Drug Administration have endorsed using marijuana for chronic pain.
In his veto message, Gov. Chris Sununu said this was no time to change the status quo.
“Maintaining a strong patient-provider relationship is an important part of ensuring that our medical marijuana program is used successfully and responsibly,” Sununu wrote in his veto message.
“A doctor or other health care provider uses their knowledge and relationship with a patient to explore the right treatment options for that individual.”
The Senate overrode this veto, 17-7 after Republican Senators Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, Harold French of Franklin and John Reagan of Deerfield joined all 14 Senate Democrats.
The House then voted to override the veto by a 238-117 total, one vote more than the required two-thirds majority.
The only other bill to become law despite a Sununu veto was the repeal of the state’s death penalty, which came last spring.
The State Senate voted Thursday to override these three other bills, though the House later voted to sustain Sununu’s vetoes:
• LCHIP Fee Hike (SB 74): This raised from $25 to $35 the fee attached to the recording of any deed that goes to support the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program. The override vote was 17-7;
• Criminal Background Checks for Jobs (SB 100). This bill would prevent employers from asking on a job application if someone had been guilty of a felony. The measure would allow employers from asking that question in person. The Senate override vote was 17-7;
• Employee Union Rights (SB 148). All public employees must be notified of their rights to join a union. This bill would also exempt all email communication between unions and their members from the Right to Know Law. The Senate vote to override was 16-8.
Some of the top priorities of Senate Democrats didn’t get that far as all 10 Republicans stood firm to uphold Sununu vetoes against a minimum wage increase (SB 10), a paid family and medical leave program (SB 1) and more money for job training programs (SB 2).
Political observers noted medical marijuana dominated both days of veto overrides by the House and Senate Wednesday and Thursday.
On the first day, the House was only able to override one of 24 bills — HB 364, to allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own pot.
But that override bid in the State Senate late Thursday afternoon failed on a 13-11 vote.
Sen. Reagan recalled his late wife, Elizabeth Murphy, would not take marijuana for pain prior to her cancer death because she lobbied for local police chiefs.
“That’s where we are getting pressure today from the New Hampshire chiefs of police whose message is let those people suffer because the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, pays them to take a public stance against everything and anything including cannabis,” Reagan said.
But Sen. Robert Giuda, R-Warren, said the bill would permit patients to have enough marijuana to produce 5,760 marijuana cigarettes or joints.
The bill would have let any authorized patient or dedicated caregiver to grow three mature plants, three immature plants and have 12 seedlings.
“That’s enough to get someone stoned by smoking it every six hours for four years,” Giuda said.
“The temptation is there for this huge diversion of this product that they don’t need. Where is it going to go? It’s not going to go in the trash can. Let’s not be naïve.”
Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, said the neighboring state of Maine has had a similar, grow-your-own pot bill for 20 years and she said it has not had this wanton abuse of pot by patients.
Senate President Donna Soucy, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro and Kevin Cavanaugh, all D-Manchester joined eight Republicans to create a big enough minority needed to sustain Sununu’s veto.