We are pleased that the Senate Health, Education, and Human Services Committee unanimously voted Tuesday to approve HB 573 and send it forward to the Senate floor. However, we were sad to watch as the bill was compromised by several amendments that were insisted upon by Gov. Hassan.
The worst was the removal of the home cultivation provision. If no patient or caregiver in the state is allowed to cultivate, patients will likely have to wait two or more years for safe, legal access through alternative treatment centers. Another offensive amendment requires patients to secure written permission before using marijuana on private property.
Senators felt they had little choice but to accept these mandates, because to do otherwise would be to risk having the bill vetoed. MPP held a press conference following the Senate vote, and our concerns were reported by media outlets including NHPR, The Union-Leader, The Concord Monitor, and The Nashua Telegraph.
At a press conference held by Minnesotans for Compassionate Care last week to announce the introduction of a medical marijuana bill, several patients shared their heart-wrenching stories with reporters and assembled lawmakers.
As New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan attempts to strip the provisions allowing patients to grow a limited amount of marijuana from the legislation being considered in the state Senate this week, patients are speaking up.
Clayton Holton, a 28-year-old with muscular dystrophy and an outspoken supporter of medical marijuana, wrote in Seacoast Online:
I have spent the better part of a decade asking New Hampshire legislators to allow patients like me to use medical marijuana, and it finally appears that a medical marijuana bill is going to pass this year. Unfortunately, it appears this law may not be of any benefit to patients like me who are fighting for our lives.
HB 573, which passed overwhelmingly in the House, allows patients to access medical marijuana from one of five state-regulated alternative treatment centers or grow up to three cannabis plants. The centers will not begin serving patients for at least two years, and many patients, including myself, cannot wait that long for relief. Thus, it is critical that we be allowed to grow for ourselves or designate a caregiver to do so for us, as the bill allows.
Sadly, Gov. Maggie Hassan is now insisting that home cultivation be removed from the bill before she will be willing to sign it. This means patients will continue to suffer without legal access to marijuana. Frankly, I do not expect to live another two years, so for me, this may as well be a death sentence.
While Gov. Hassan should be commended for supporting the rights of patients to use the medicine that works best for them, she needs to realize that we should not be forcing patients to either wait years or put themselves in danger getting their medicine from the criminal market.
Last week, the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved Rep. Harold Dutton’s bill to keep marijuana users from being sent to jail for first-time simple possession of marijuana. Unfortunately, the bill – HB 184 – was amended first to apply only to people under the age of 21. The bill is now with the House Committee on Calendars. We want to be sure the committee places it on the calendar for a vote on the House floor.
In other news, the Committee on Public Health heard testimony from patients and medical professionals who support HB 594. This important bill would let patients who are arrested for marijuana possession raise a defense in court if their physicians recommend medical marijuana. It would also protect physicians who make such recommendations.
The testimony from supporters was profound and emotional. To see a video of this amazing hearing, click here. Consideration of HB 594 begins at about 1:51:20 into the recording.
The committee postponed its vote on whether to pass the bill to the House floor until Monday, May 6, which happens to be the last day it has to take action before the bill dies this session.
Two pieces of legislation that will make changes to the state’s medical marijuana program have passed the Hawaii Legislature. Both of these bills found their way out of their respective conference committees and were approved of with bipartisan support.
H.B. 668, C.D. 1 transfers jurisdiction of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Public Health and creates a “Medical Marijuana Registry Fund” to administer the program. This noncontroversial measure means that health professionals – as opposed to law enforcement – would have control of the program. The departments are already working on the transfer, which must take place before January 1, 2015.
S.B. 642, C.D. 1 amends the medical marijuana program. The amount of usable marijuana a patient may possess is increased from three to four ounces, and the mature/immature definitions have been removed allowing patients to have seven plants at any stage. Unfortunately, the bill would also change the law to only allow a patient’s primary care physician to recommend medical marijuana. If signed, it will not take effect until January 2, 2015, and advocates will work to fix this.