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.
If you live in New Hampshire, please contact Gov. Hassan and ask her to remove her opposition to patient cultivation.
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.
While not perfect, this bill is a step in the right direction. Under current Texas law, possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in jail and $2000 in fines. If you are a Texas resident, you can voice your support and encourage members of the Committee on Calendars to put the bill on the calendar for a vote.
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.
If you live in Hawaii, ask Gov. Abercrombie to sign H.B. 668, C.D. 1, approving the transfer.
Yesterday, in a 4-1 vote, Vermont’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve a bill that would reduce penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Under H. 200, which has already passed the House, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would become a civil offense punishable by a fine rather than a criminal misdemeanor.
Rep. Christopher Pearson
H. 200, introduced by Rep. Christopher Pearson (P-Burlington) with a tripartisan group of 38 co-sponsors, would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket. Those under age 21 would be required to undergo substance abuse screening. Under current state law, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail for a first offense and up to two years in jail for a subsequent offense.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Vermont voters support removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replacing them with a civil fine, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in February 2012.
Senators will soon be voting on this bill. If you live in Vermont, click here to send them one last message of support!
Earlier today, a bipartisan group of Minnesota state lawmakers joined patients and advocates from Minnesotans for Compassionate Care for a news conference at the state capitol to announce the introduction of a bill that would allow people with serious illnesses to access and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
Rep. Carly Melin
Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) introduced HF 1818 in the House, and Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) introduced the companion – SF 1641 – in the Senate. Both bills have the maximum number of sponsors allowed – 35 in the House, including 12 committee chairs, and five in the Senate, including two committee chairs. If you live in Minnesota, please email your state senator and representative and ask them to support HF 1818/SF 1641.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already allow seriously ill residents to use medical marijuana with their doctors’ recommendations, and 65% of Minnesotans support a compassionate medical marijuana law. Urge Gov. Dayton to join this growing majority.