NH Commonsense - NH Senate Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, 4-1

Bill Heads to Full Senate with Committee's Recommendation to Pass

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 4-1 today to recommend passage of a bill that would protect seriously ill patients from arrest for using medical marijuana with their doctor's recommendation.

Last month, the bill, HB 648, passed in the full House in a bipartisan 234-138 vote that included 45 Republicans. Today's vote came after the committee heard hours of testimony last week from patients, lawmakers and members of the law enforcement community who favored the bill.

"This vote shows that the committee listened to patients like me and understood that we aren’t criminals," said Clayton Holton, a Somersworth resident who uses medical marijuana to treat symptoms of muscular dystrophy. "I can only hope the full Senate takes the committee's lead and passes this bill."

Thirteen states already have similar laws allowing patients with certain life-threatening or debilitating conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctor recommends it. Michigan became the latest last November when 63 percent of the state's voters passed a medical marijuana ballot initiative. In the 11 states that have had medical marijuana laws long enough to collect data on youth marijuana use rates, all have seen those rates decline since establishing such a law. In some, including California – whose law is far looser than the bill under consideration in the New Hampshire Senate – that decline has been dramatic.

"When the full Senate takes up this bill, they can be sure they're considering one of the most tightly written, carefully controlled medical marijuana laws in the nation," said Matt Simon, executive director of NH Common Sense. "There is absolutely no reason we can't protect our most vulnerable, suffering citizens who rely on doctor-recommended medical marijuana. If the full Senate considers the same evidence that was heard by this committee, we trust that it will also decide that these seriously ill patients aren’t criminals."

The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth) and Sen. John Gallus (R-Berlin). A 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71 percent of state voters support such a law, including the majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.