N.H. is poised to legalize medical marijuana

2013 brings hope in the form of a new governor with a proven record of supporting medical marijuana patients

When the new Massachusetts law giving seriously ill patients safe, legal access to medical marijuana goes into effect Jan. 1, the “Live Free or Die” state will become the only state in New England that fails to protect patients from arrest when their doctors recommend medical marijuana.

What does this mean for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer and other serious illnesses? Very simply, it means some of New Hampshire’s sickest residents will continue risking arrest to procure marijuana from the black market, and it means others will suffer in silence rather than trying a medicine that might relieve their suffering.

Will the Legislature finally end these injustices in 2013?

Patients and their loved ones have gotten their hopes up twice before – in 2009 and 2012 – only to see those hopes dashed when Gov. John Lynch vetoed the medical marijuana bills, and legislators were unable to muster the two-thirds support needed for an override.

Fortunately, 2013 brings hope in the form of a new governor with a proven record of supporting medical marijuana patients.

As Senate majority leader in 2009, Maggie Hassan clearly demonstrated her support for the rights of patients, as she voted three times in favor of the medical marijuana bill. With a supportive new governor, the stage appears to be set for New Hampshire to finally pass a medical marijuana law in 2013.

It will happen for sure if newly elected legislators turn out to be as open-minded as retiring Sen. Gary Lambert, R-Nashua. In a stunning floor speech this year, Lambert admitted that he had never considered the medical marijuana issue with an open mind prior to his committee’s hearing on Senate Bill 409, but he said he was overwhelmed by the compelling testimony in favor.

Now that voters have delivered a Legislature with a more balanced split between Democrats and Republicans, 2013 should be the year New Hampshire joins its neighbors and reaches a bipartisan consensus in favor of allowing medical marijuana.

Matt Simon of Goffstown is a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project of Washington, D.C.

Categories: Opinion