Gov. Maggie Hassan signs bill with broad legislative support that will allow patients with serious illnesses to access and use medical marijuana
CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill into law Tuesday making New Hampshire the 19th state to allow residents with serious illnesses to access and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
"This legislation is long overdue and comes as a relief to the many seriously ill patients throughout New Hampshire who will benefit from safe access to medical marijuana," said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Those suffering from debilitating conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis deserve legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana."
H.B. 573, sponsored by state Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), will allow residents with certain debilitating illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, 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 were arrested before patient ID cards became 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.
"The vast majority of Americans recognize the medical benefits of marijuana and believe people with serious illnesses should have safe and legal access to it," Simon said. "We applaud our elected officials for enacting a law to protect patients, and we hope legislators in other states will follow suit."
Nineteen states (including New Hampshire) 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, which 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.