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NH Senate approves medical marijuana bill

By Garrett Brnger
Associated Press / March 28, 2012
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CONCORD, N.H.—The New Hampshire Senate has passed a bill that would allow a home cultivation approach to medical marijuana, but Gov. John Lynch's promised veto may be insurmountable.

The Senate passed legislation 13-to-11 Wednesday night to allow a patient with a "debilitating medical condition" or that patient's designated caretaker to cultivate and possess up to six ounces of marijuana, four mature plants and 12 seedlings at a registered "cultivation location." It would allow the patient or caregiver to possess two ounces elsewhere.

Despite vocal support from several traditional opponents including Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley, it failed to gather the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override.

Several senators said testimony from medical marijuana users at the bill's Health and Human Services Committee hearing caused them to re-evaluate their positions.

Sen. Gary Lambert, R-Nashua, said before going to the bill's hearing he had told himself "All I've got to do is sit through and plug through listening to a bunch of people using drugs and whining."

By the end of the hearing, Lambert said he was considering marijuana a form of medicine, and he and his fellow committee members gave the bill their unanimous support.

Those arguments have yet to persuade the governor, who has opposed several medical marijuana bills in recent years. He vetoed a dispensary approach in 2009, citing concerns over proliferation and cultivation beyond the dispensaries, and another medical marijuana bill died last year in the Senate after he had promised a veto.

Following the Senate vote, Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said the bill was even less restrictive than the dispensary approach, and the governor plans to veto it.

Supporters in the Senate, however, complimented efforts by the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe's, R-Strafford, to appease concerns through continued restrictions.

"It's specifically narrow for people who are truly, truly in need," said Rep. Andy Sanborn, R-Henniker.

Supporters say the bill was designed to remove any business motive from the equation. A caretaker would be responsible for only one patient and would most likely be a patient's family member. They would be volunteers, able to be reimbursed for costs like electricity but not labor.

Patients would need a registry identification card, which would require written certification from their doctor that medical use of marijuana would help treat a debilitating medical condition. That would require a patient to have a chronic or terminal disease from a predetermined list, coupled with severe symptoms or treatment side effects. Qualifying diseases and conditions include cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and Parkinson's.

Caretakers would also need to apply for a card and would undergo a criminal background check.

Card holders who provide marijuana to anyone not allowed to have it would have their cards revoked and face a class B felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison. Additional penalties for illegal marijuana sales would also apply.

Bradley said it is unlikely someone who has applied to the state to use marijuana and registered a grow location would use it to distribute the drug.

"Anybody who's creating a cottage industry to grow and sell it is not going to do it this way. Let's get real," said Bradley.

The bill now goes to the House, which passed a different medical marijuana bill last year 221-to-96.

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