Bill Would Make New Hampshire 14th State to Protect Seriously Ill Medical Marijuana Patients from Arrest
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted 13-7 to recommend passage of a bill today that would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctor recommends it. The vote by the full committee came after a three-member subcommittee voted 2-1 in favor of the bill.
Today's vote means the bill, HB 648, will now go to the House floor for a full vote by the chamber with the committee's "ought to pass" recommendation. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster).
The committee's strong statement of support provided medical marijuana patients with a boost of confidence. Clayton Holton, a muscular dystrophy patient from Somersworth, said the vote made him feel hopeful that he'd be able to live the rest of his life in New Hampshire. "I'm happy that my family may not have to move to a state that allows medical marijuana," he said.
Thirteen states already have medical marijuana laws which effectively protect qualifying patients from arrest and help them safely access marijuana. Michigan became the most recent last year when 63 percent of voters passed its medical marijuana law by ballot initiative. Of the 11 states that have collected such data, not one has seen youth marijuana use rates increase after establishing a medical marijuana law. In fact, each of those states, including California, has actually seen youth marijuana rates decline, in some cases dramatically.
In 2007, a bill similar to the one currently under consideration was defeated by only nine votes – an incredibly slim margin considering it had been negatively recommended by the committee that today voted to approve HB 648. However, a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71 percent of New Hampshire voters support such a law, and medical marijuana advocates say legislators have learned a lot in two years about both medical marijuana and medical marijuana policy.
"The committee studied the bill very diligently, and now it has placed its stamp of approval on a well-written, responsible bill," said Matt Simon, executive director of NH Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which supports the bill. "It was a good day for democracy."