New Hampshire legislators are working to push through a medical marijuana bill in the Granite State. This has been an ongoing battle. In 2007, HB 774 was rejected by a 186-177 vote in the House. It would have recognized the “big eight” conditions (cancer, HIV/AIDS, cachexia, spasticity, seizures, chronic pain, chronic nausea, and glaucoma), allowed home grow of 3 mature / 4 immature plants, and possession of 3 ounces.
The governor of New Hampshire, Democrat John Lynch, announced that he would never have allowed HB 774 to pass anyway. His primary concern was that patients and caregivers would be able to grow their own medical marijuana. So the 2009 version of a medical marijuana bill, HB 648 was introduced and it passed the House with a 234-138 vote. The Senate also passed it 14-10, in its newly modified form, which reduced the plant counts to 6 total and reduced the possession limit to 2 ounces. But the governor once again threatened to veto it because of the home grow, so the bill was modified to have no home growing provisions, forcing patients to register and shop at one of three “compassion centers” (dispensaries) in the state.
Other concerns addresses by the governor led lawmakers to make more compromises, including allowing landlords to ban medical marijuana smoking, and requiring the state to verify cards on request from not only law enforcement, but employers, landlords, courts, and health care professionals. The condition of chronic pain was amended to require three months of failed treatments with other medications and surgeries and you couldn’t get medical marijuana for hepatitis C unless you were undergoing other antiviral treatments. Fearing the criminal element, the bill was amended to allow for fingerprints and background checks of caregivers and dispensary staff. So, naturally, Gov. John Lynch vetoed this new compromise bill.
In 2011, medical marijuana came back as SB 409. This time the lawmakers ignored the governor’s concerns and created a bill that allows for home growing for 4 mature and 12 immature plants and possession of 6 ounces. The “compassion centers” were nixed for fear the feds would prosecute state dispensary employees. None of the changes made any difference, for the governor had said in 2010:
I remain concerned about the distribution of marijuana in the state.
If for example it were able to be confined within hospitals, I would be more open to that than allowing the possibility of it being open to unlimited distribution. I’m very concerned about that…. if it comes back in basically the same format with the same concerns that I have, I won’t let it go forward.
The bill has passed with a veto-proof majority in the House, but lacks three votes it needs to override the governor’s veto in the Senate. And the governor’s veto is a reflection of his support for law enforcement, which has always opposed any reform to marijuana laws in New Hampshire:
“The problem with it overall is it’s a bad bill, and the only way to make it better is to take marijuana out of it,” said Enfield police Chief Richard Crate, a vice president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police.
Proponents who point to the bill’s tightened language “are being very naive to the criminal element out there and the people who are going to take advantage of that,” Crate said.
Despite the medical rationale for the bill, the police chiefs are skeptical of the reasons for passing it, Crate said.
“We also feel very strongly this is just a ruse to legalize marijuana,” he said.
The law enforcement community holds sway with many of these legislators whose personal knowledge of marijuana is lacking. ”I’ve always voted that way because law enforcement opposed this issue,” said one senator who voted against medical marijuana. ”To me, they’re standing on principle on this issue, and I’m standing with them.” Law enforcement fills these lawmakers full of Reefer Madness like “legalizing marijuana only leads to more gateways for people to get more involved in more serious drugs” and they never arrest anyone for heroin, cocaine, or meth who doesn’t also have marijuana. Cops say medical marijuana will send the wrong message to the children. Cops say allowing one person to be a patient would make it impossible to bust his four friends smoking pot with him. And the opposition Senators and the Governor listen.
So long as cops have the mandate to bust people for marijuana, every medical marijuana bill will continue to tiptoe that line that determines who is healthy enough to imprison for smoking pot. Law enforcement will always push that line further back to exclude as many “criminals” and as much “abuse” as they can.
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