After falling two votes short with a medical marijuana bill in 2009, patients and advocates prepare for effort in 2011
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Today, the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy (NH Common Sense) announced publication of its “Medical Marijuana Primary Election Voter Guide” at NHCompassion.org/VoterGuide. The guide presents contrasts between candidates’ positions on medical marijuana, providing information on candidates for governor, New Hampshire House and Senate, and U.S. Congress.
Two high-profile candidates, Governor John Lynch and U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte, received grades of “F” based on their opposition to a very tightly-crafted medical marijuana bill in 2009. Despite former Attorney General Ayotte’s strong objections to HB 648 and Lynch’s veto, the House voted to override that veto in a 240-115 vote Oct. 28, 2009. When a 14-10 Senate vote the same day fell two votes short of the needed two-thirds majority, patients were forced to delay their hope that New Hampshire would join Maine, Vermont, and 11 other states by passing a medical marijuana law. Since Gov. Lynch’s veto, New Jersey and the District of Columbia enacted medical marijuana laws, bringing the total number to 15.
Videos posted at NHCompassion.org feature a disabled Navy veteran questioning Ayotte and other U.S. Senate candidates about his right to use medical marijuana instead of morphine and other dangerous, addictive pain medicines. Ayotte simply and nervously reiterated the position she had as attorney general, while Jim Bender (grade: “A”) and Ovide Lamontagne (grade: “C”) gave answers which set them apart.
Matt Simon, executive director for NH Common Sense, explained the intent of the voter guide: “After what happened in 2009, the medical marijuana issue is obviously very important to many voters. We’ve never encouraged people to base their votes entirely on a single issue, but we do want to provide voters with as much knowledge as possible so they can make informed decisions at the polls.”
The voter guide shows how incumbent candidates for state House and Senate voted on the 2009 bill, along with survey responses from non-incumbent candidates. A general election edition of the voter guide is expected in late September, but with many important contrasts evident in this primary, medical marijuana patients and their advocates are currently focused on Sept. 14.
The most recent poll of New Hampshire residents was conducted in 2008 by Mason-Dixon Research (results available at NHCompassion.org/poll). It found that 71% of New Hampshire voters support changing the law to allow medical marijuana, with only 21% opposed. Advocates note that this poll was taken before dozens of seriously ill patients organized and lobbied for the 2009 bill, and support today is likely even stronger than this poll suggests.
“Many voters will remember that Ayotte and Lynch subverted the will of the legislature and the people when they killed a responsible, tightly-crafted medical marijuana bill,” Simon observed. “Patients and their supporters will be checking this voter guide to see which candidates understand that seriously ill patients should have safe, legal access to medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.”