Medical Marijuana Advocates Urge New Hampshire Senate Committee to Support New Bill

Mar 12, 2012

Coffey, Forsythe, Gallus, House, medical, Merrick, New Hampshire, SB 409, Senate

A hearing on New Hampshire’s medical marijuana bill, SB 409, ran past 5 p.m. Thursday evening. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), listened to two and a half hours of testimony, nearly all of which was offered in support of the bill.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), introduced the measure and made a strong case that support for the bill transcends partisan boundaries.

"I have never used marijuana in my life, but it's clear to me that marijuana does have legitimate medical uses,” Forsythe explained. “This bill is carefully designed to protect the rights of patients and doctors while minimizing the potential for the law to be abused, and I strongly encourage my colleagues in the Senate to support this sensible, compassionate reform."

Sen. Ray White (R-Bedford) and Sen. John Gallus (R-Berlin) are the bill’s Senate co-sponsors. Sen. White also spoke in favor of the bill, along with House co-sponsors, Rep. Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster), a cancer survivor, and Rep. Jennifer Coffey (R-Andover), a licensed EMT.

Several patients offered compelling testimony, including former Manchester resident Ron Mitchell, a severe pain patient who testified that his quality of life has improved dramatically since he moved to Vermont in 2010 and was legally recommended marijuana by his doctor. Ron told committee members he has dramatically reduced his use of prescription pain medicine by using medical marijuana, and he added that he and his wife would like to move back to New Hampshire but will not be able to do so unless this law passes.

I reminded the committee that a similar bill had only fallen two votes short of becoming law in 2009 and described the impact of that narrow defeat on the lives of New Hampshire patients.

“Seriously ill patients shouldn’t have to wait any longer for safe, legal access,” I told committee members. “These laws are not causing problems in states such as Vermont or Maine, or surely we would hear about them here in New Hampshire.”

The hearing’s final speaker, Bill Alleman of Weare, simply noted that while about 20 private citizens spoke in favor of the bill, the only three speakers opposed were employees of the executive branch. “Do you represent the executive branch, or do you represent the people?” he asked.