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.
Yesterday, the House and Senate granted final approval to the compromise version of New Hampshire’s medical marijuana bill. HB 573 will soon be printed and transmitted to the governor’s desk, and Gov. Maggie Hassan has already promised to sign it into law. The Senate approved the bill in a voice vote, with no discussion, and the House voted 284-66 in favor, also with no discussion.
Many of us have mixed feelings about the details of HB 573 (summary is available here), but we should all agree that its passage represents a major step forward for marijuana policy reform in New Hampshire. It’s unfortunate that patients will have to wait up to a year until ID cards are issued before they can receive legal protection, and it’s unfortunate that patients will not have legal access to medical marijuana until alternative treatment centers are open. However, we will strongly encourage the state health department to begin issuing ID cards and registering alternative treatment centers as soon as possible.
With Gov. Hassan’s signature, New Hampshire will become either the 19th or 20th state to pass an effective medical marijuana law. (A similar bill is awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois.) MPP will continue working on this policy until New Hampshire patients have safe, legal access to medical marijuana!
Yesterday morning, after meeting with Gov. Hassan’s policy advisors, a special committee of seven representatives and senators agreed on the final language of HB 573 that will move medical marijuana forward to Gov. Hassan’s desk.
Then, Gov. Hassan issued a formal statement indicating that she intends to sign the bill after it is approved one last time by the House and Senate. She said the compromise “addresses the concerns that I have heard and expressed throughout this session, and provides the level of regulation needed for the use of medical marijuana…. I encourage the full legislature to pass this compromise so I can sign this legislation into law."
Sadly, Gov. Hassan was not willing to agree to any significant changes, so only minor improvements were made by the committee. Home cultivation will remain a felony under all circumstances, and patients will have no legal protections until ID cards are issued (which could take up to 19 months).
Despite these imperfections, we are very pleased that New Hampshire will finally be moving forward with implementation of a medical marijuana law.
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!
The New Hampshire Senate voted 18-6 last week to pass HB 573 and send it back to the House. Unfortunately, after hearing a number of objections from Gov. Maggie Hassan, the Senate had little choice but to amend the bill in ways that will be bad for patients. The Senate removed home cultivation from the bill, gutted the affirmative defense provisions that would have immediately given patients a defense they could raise in court, and adopted other changes that are detailed here (some of which would actually render the bill unworkable if not corrected).
The bill will now return to the House, which we expect will disapprove of the Senate’s amendments. This means a “committee of conference” will be formed, in which a special committee of representatives and senators will work to agree on a final version of the bill that will move forward to the governor’s desk.
Gov. Hassan has been quoted saying she is still open to listening and learning more, so if you are a New Hampshire resident, please call Gov. Hassan's office and politely urge her to reconsider her insistence on these provisions that will harm patients!