House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise today on a measure that will allow patients with serious illnesses to obtain and use medical marijuana; full legislature expected to give final approval next week
CONCORD – New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan announced Tuesday that she intends to sign a bill that will 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 governor's press release is available at http://www.governor.nh.gov/media/news/2013/pr-2013-06-18-medical-marijuana.htm
"We applaud state lawmakers for coming together to ensure the passage of this important legislation, and we are pleased to hear Gov. Hassan intends to sign it into law," said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This commonsense legislation will make New Hampshire a safer and healthier place not just for medical marijuana patients, but for all of us."
Gov. Hassan's announcement was released after House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise on the bill earlier in the day. The full House and Senate are expected to sign off on the committee of conference agreement next week. It will then be transmitted to the governor for her signature.
H.B. 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 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. The amended bill also contained errors that would have rendered the policy unworkable. House and Senate negotiators arrived at a compromise that included the Senate's removal of the home-growing and affirmative defense provisions, but corrected the potentially fatal flaws in the bill.
"It is unfortunate that the measure will not provide immediate protection to those currently seeking relief from medical marijuana, but in time it will ensure seriously ill people will be able to do so without fear of arrest," Simon said. "The law will also provide patients with safe and reliable access to medical marijuana so that they no longer need to resort to the underground market."
Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. The Illinois Legislature approved similar legislation in May and is now awaiting the governor's signature.
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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 http://www.marijuanapolicy.org.