New Hampshire is about to become the 19th state (unless the Illinois governor strikes first) to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana. Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) Tuesday announced that she intends to sign a bill after House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise on language that would ease her expressed concerns.
Gov. Maggie Hassan (nh.gov) "I have always maintained that allowing doctors to provide relief to patients through the use of appropriately regulated and dispensed medical marijuana is the compassionate and right policy for the State of New Hampshire. The compromise legislation as agreed to by the committee of conference 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," Hassan said in a Tuesday afternoon statement.
"I appreciate the hard work put into this measure by members of the Senate and House, especially lead negotiators Senator Nancy Stiles and Representative Jim MacKay, as well as by scores of advocates dedicated to the well-being of all Granite Staters, and I encourage the full legislature to pass this compromise so I can sign this legislation into law," she added.
Gov. Hassan's announcement was released after House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise on the bill earlier in the day. The full House and Senate are expected to sign off on the committee of conference agreement next week. It will then be transmitted to the governor for her signature.
The compromise means that New Hampshire residents will be able to access medical marijuana, but only more than a year from now, when state patient ID cards are ready and state-regulated dispensaries are open. No patients will be able to grow their own medicine, and private marijuana cultivation for any reason will remain a felony in the Granite State.
"We applaud state lawmakers for coming together to ensure the passage of this important legislation, and we are pleased to hear Gov. Hassan intends to sign it into law," said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project."This commonsense legislation will make New Hampshire a safer and healthier place not just for medical marijuana patients, but for all of us."
House Bill 573, sponsored by State Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), will allow residents with certain debilitating illnesses to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Patients will be able to obtain marijuana through one of four non-profit, state-licensed alternative treatment centers.
When first passed by the House, the bill allowed patients to grow up to three mature plants in their homes and to raise a defense in court if they were arrested before patient ID cards became available. But law enforcement raised concerns with the governor, who in turn raised concerns with the Senate, which amended the House version to eliminate patient grows and the interim medical marijuana defense. The Senate version also contained errors that made the program unworkable. House and Senate negotiators earlier Tuesday completed their work on a compromise bill, fixing the fatal flaws, but leaving intact the ban on patient grows.
"It is unfortunate that the measure will not provide immediate protection to those currently seeking relief from medical marijuana, but in time it will ensure seriously ill people will be able to do so without fear of arrest," Simon said. "The law will also provide patients with safe and reliable access to medical marijuana so that they no longer need to resort to the underground market."
Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia now allow medical marijuana. Medical marijuana legislation has also passed the Illinois legislature, and that bill is on the governor's desk.
Two reports came out today about the federal government's attacks on medical marijuana providers.
Nevada's Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, Wednesday signed into law two drug reform measures, one allowing for medical marijuana dispensaries and one removing syringes from the state's drug paraphernalia law.
[image:1 align:left]On the medical marijuana front, Sandoval signed into law Senate Bill 374, which will establish a state-regulated system of dispensaries. The law envisions up to 66 dispensaries across the state, with up to 40 in Las Vegas, 10 in Reno, and at least one in each county.
"We applaud Gov. Sandoval and the legislature for their leadership and commend those law enforcement organizations that expressed support for this much-needed legislation," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, who testified in support of the bill. "It will make Nevada a safer and healthier place not only for medical marijuana patients, but for the entire community. This new law will provide patients with the safe and reliable access to medical marijuana that they deserve," O'Keefe said. "Regulating medical marijuana sales will also generate revenue and take a bite out of the state's underground marijuana market."
Introduced by Sens. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) and Mark Hutchison (R-Las Vegas), the bill creates rules and regulations not only for dispensaries, but also infused product manufacturers and cultivation and testing facilities. It also imposes 2% excise taxes on both wholesale and retail sales, with 75% of those revenues going to the education fund and 25% going to cover the cost of regulating the medical marijuana industry.
The state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, passed twice in 1998 and 2000, required the legislature to create a medical marijuana program that included appropriate methods of supplying medical marijuana to patients. Now, the legislature has finally done so. Nevada will now join Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island on the list of states that have state-regulated dispensaries. Two more jurisdictions, Washington, DC, and Vermont should come on board this summer, and the rule-making process for dispensaries is underway in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
On the harm reduction front, Sandoval signed into law Senate Bill 410, which decriminalizes the possession of syringes by removing them from the state's drug paraphernalia list. That opens the way for the over-the-counter sale of syringes and needle exchange programs.
"Back in 1996 when first elected, I was asked what bills I'd be pursuing for my first legislative session," said Sen. David Parks (D-Las Vegas). "My response was employment non-discrimination, HIV/AIDS state funding and decriminalization of hypodermic devices. Little did I know it would be my 9th session before decriminalization of hypodermic devices would come to fruition."
Nevada becomes the 37th state to decriminalize syringe possession and allow for the over-the-counter sale of needles, as well as needle exchange programs, proven means of reducing the transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other blood-borne infections.
Nevada harm reduction workers said they were ready to get a needle exchange up and running as soon as the law takes effect.
Northern Nevada HOPES in Reno plans to start a syringe exchange program as soon as the law takes effect. Director Sharon Chamberlain says, "In addition to getting sterile syringe out to those who need them, our program will increase safe syringe disposal by individuals in the community," said Sharon Chamberlain, director of Northern Nevada HOPES in Reno. "We will educate these users about the new and needed community disposal options, and strongly encourage them to take advantage of this resource. Previously, no community initiatives provided safe disposal options. "