MPP - NH Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Full New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Measure that has received overwhelming support in the Senate and House would allow patients with serious illnesses to obtain and use medical marijuana, but a committee of conference will be needed to fix errors and reconcile differences between the two chambers

CONCORD – The New Hampshire Senate approved a bill 18-6 on Thursday that would allow state residents with serious illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to obtain and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The measure will now be transmitted to the House of Representatives, which is expected to call for a committee of conference to fix errors and resolve differences between the House and Senate versions. The House overwhelmingly approved the bill 286-64 on March 20, but some problematic changes were made in the Senate at the behest of Gov. Maggie Hassan and her legal counsel, Lucy Hodder.

“We applaud the senators for adopting this compassionate and much-needed legislation despite its imperfections,” said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Those suffering from debilitating medical conditions deserve safe and legal access to medical marijuana, and the Senate has once again clearly indicated its support for patients.”

HB 573, sponsored by State Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), will allow residents with certain debilitating illnesses to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Patients will be able to obtain marijuana through one of four non-profit, state-licensed alternative treatment centers.

The bill initially approved by the House allowed patients to grow up to three mature marijuana plants in their homes and to raise a defense in court if they are arrested before patient ID cards are available, but the Senate removed the provisions at the behest of Gov. Hassan, who has otherwise expressed support for passing medical marijuana legislation. The amended bill also contains errors that would render the policy unworkable and will need to be fixed by the committee of conference.

“In time, if a few simple problems are fixed, this bill will give patients much-needed relief,” Simon said. “The amendments made at the behest of our governor will leave patients out in the cold for at least two years, having to choose between needlessly suffering or turning to the underground market to find their medicine. Patients will continue to make the case to Gov. Hassan for why this bill needs to be substantially improved, and she has said she will continue to listen.”

Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. Similar legislation has been introduced in 16 additional states this year, and it is anticipated in one more state.

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The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana-policy-reform organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit