Legislators Worked to Address Governor Lynch's Concerns, Eliminate Possibilities for Diversion
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — All seven legislators who were tasked with crafting a compromise on the medical marijuana bill signed off on the revised version today. A vote to approve the new language is expected June 24 in the House and Senate, after which the bill will proceed to Gov. John Lynch's desk.
This special seven-member "committee of conference," chaired by House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua), was formed to address eight specific concerns that were expressed by Lynch. The bill had passed both Houses in slightly different forms and was scheduled for final approval in the House when Lynch's office reportedly informed Rosenwald that the bill would be vetoed if passed in its original form.
Since then, the bill has been rewritten to address all eight concerns. Most significantly, the new bill will not permit patients or their caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana plants, as patients are permitted to do in all 13 states that currently protect medical marijuana patients from arrest. Instead, the amended bill would allow for the creation of up to three nonprofit "compassion centers," which could legally cultivate medical marijuana and dispense it to patients.
Rather than creating a new model from scratch, the committee of conference produced a bill similar to legislation that passed in Rhode Island Tuesday. That state's bill, which adds compassion centers to its already existing medical marijuana program, will become law now that legislators overrode Gov. Donald Carcieri's veto, 67-0 in the Rhode Island House and 35-3 in the Senate. New Hampshire’s bill is much more restrictive than Rhode Island's law, which also allows patients and their caregivers to cultivate medical marijuana.
Advocates were confident that the amendment would remove all reasonable objections to HB 648.
"As amended, HB 648 would create the most tightly crafted medical marijuana law in the country," said Matt Simon, executive director for the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. "Some legislators voted against the bill initially because they felt that distribution of medical marijuana should be tightly controlled. If these legislators truly believe patients should not have to live in fear of being arrested by New Hampshire police, they should be willing to support this version of the bill."
In the coming week, advocates will present legislators with a document – available online at www.mpp.org/states/new-hampshire/hb-648-has-been-amended-to.html – detailing the committee's changes and specifies how all eight of the governor's concerns have been addressed.