At long last, the first New Hampshire dispensary has opened! Sanctuary ATC opened its doors in Plymouth on May 1 and began serving patients, including many who told The Manchester Union Leader they were seeking a less harmful and more effective alternative to opioids.
Temescal Wellness, which will operate dispensaries in Dover and Lebanon, has opened as well. A fourth approved dispensary, slated for Merrimack, has not yet announced when it will be opening.
We would like to thank the countless Granite Staters who advocated for safe, legal access to cannabis over the years and helped make this victory possible. We also think it’s important that we take a moment to remember the patients who worked to pass this law but did not live long enough to see the first dispensary open. This list includes Clayton Holton, Scott Turner, Barbara Filleul, Hardy Macia, and Linda Horan.
There were no celebrations in 2013 when this law was passed because we knew it would be a long time before any patients could benefit and we knew some patients could not afford to wait for safe, legal access to cannabis. Today, now that a dispensary is open and now that over 600 patients have been issued ID cards protecting them from arrest, we believe it is finally time to declare victory! We will, of course, continue pushing for further improvements to the law.
On this date two years ago, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB 573, making New Hampshire the last state in New England to approve a medical marijuana law. Unfortunately, so far this law has failed to benefit patients in any way. Some patients, including well-known patient-advocate Clayton Holton, have passed away while waiting for the law to take effect. Others, such as Ron Mitchell, have had no choice but to leave their families behind and move to another state in search of relief.
To raise awareness about the program’s many shortcomings, MPP has published Confusion, Delays, and Continued Arrests: A Two-Year Retrospective on New Hampshire’s “Therapeutic Use of Cannabis” Law.
This report includes the most recent updates, analyzes why the law is not yet effective for patients, and makes recommendations for improving the law and policy moving forward.
The New Hampshire House voted yesterday to reject the Senate’s amendments to HB 573. Rather than sending the flawed Senate version of the bill to Gov. Hassan’s desk to receive her signature, the House has requested that a special committee be formed in one final effort to negotiate a compromise.
The most talked-about issue with the bill is the removal of the home cultivation provision, but there are a number of other serious concerns about the bill. Fortunately, the House has been very strong in its desire to protect patients now rather than expecting them to wait.
You can read a complete run-down on the Senate’s changes here.
If you are a New Hampshire resident, please call Gov. Hassan’s office one more time and urge her to agree that patients should be protected in the here and now. It’s unreasonable that Gov. Hassan thinks patients should have to wait more than a year for legal protections and at least two years for access to medical marijuana.
Additionally, if you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to sign Clayton Holton’s petition at Change.org!
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.
Please share this news and add your voice to the voices of patients like Clayton Holton, who published this excellent letter in The Portsmouth Herald, and Hardy Macia, a cancer patient who recorded a sad, compelling video message for Gov. Hassan from his hospital bed.
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.
This past Sunday, New Hampshire’s Sentinel Source positively highlighted the state’s proposed medical marijuana legislation, House Bill 573. The editorial board points out that the “well-crafted,” 30-page bill removes the ambiguities with which reform opponents often take issue. The proposal stipulates that prior to receiving a medical marijuana recommendation, qualifying patients must first try other forms of relief, and it sets strict rules about the financial relationships between recommending doctors and treatment centers, the total of which is capped at five. From the Sentinel:
In recent years, 18 states have authorized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, principally for palliative care for dreadfully painful conditions, and nine more are now considering such a move. New Hampshire is in this latter group with House Bill 573, a piece of legislation that is carefully drawn and deserving of support.
This support was echoed on Monday by the Nashua Telegraph, another prominent New Hampshire newspaper:
Arguments against medical marijuana are reasonable and legitimate, but they miss the point that the legislation is about easing the suffering of thousands of New Hampshire residents for which the alternatives aren’t viable. When the risks are weighed against the benefits, legalizing medical marijuana is in the best interests of New Hampshire and its citizens.
[caption id="attachment_5929" align="alignleft" width="270"] Clayton Holton, 27, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, testified at a New Hampshire medical marijuana hearing last week. (Photo - Nashua Telegraph)[/caption]
MPP would like to thank these publications for supporting this compassionate legislation. It is time for New Hampshire to join the rest of New England and allow patients like Clayton Holton to use the medicine that works best for them. Many of them cannot afford to wait. UPDATE: The Concord Monitor has joined the newspapers above in support for medical marijuana in New Hampshire.