Issue #10 – Thursday, July 24, 2014
CONCORD – Wednesday, July 23rd marked the one year anniversary of the signing of HB573, New Hampshire’s Medical Marijuana law. However, the final version of the bill was deeply disappointing to patients and relegalization activists. It excludes post-traumatic stress disorder as a valid medical condition for which medical marijuana (MMJ) may be obtained. It denies patients the legal right to grow their own medical marijuana. And, because no state-run dispensaries have yet been opened, not a single New Hampshire medical marijuana user has yet received any relief from the bill.
To publicize and protest this sorry state of affairs, representatives from the Marijuana Policy Project and New Hampshire Compassion organized a rally at the State House. The Marijuana Policy Project’s New England Political Director and Legislative Analyst, State Policies Department Matt Simon addressed a crowd of a few dozen people willing to stand in the sun on a scorching, 90+-degree day. Using several visual aids, Simon demonstrated how, sadly, New Hampshire is now the worst state in New England for medical marijuana patient rights. It’s the only state that still levies criminal penalties for possession.
Simon was followed by Rep. Ted Wright, an original sponsor of HB573. Wright related how his wife, while being treated for cancer, developed chemotherapy-induced anorexia. She was literally starving to death until, upon the advice of a medical professional, she tried cannabis and found that it enabled her to eat again. Other speakers included Kirk McNeil, Executive Director of New Hampshire Compassion, and several medical marijuana users suffering from a variety of ailments (multiple sclerosis, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Iraq War). The patients took turns sharing their personal stories and reading aloud a list of ten grievances. They then marched (some with the help of canes) to Governor Maggie Hassan’s office to present a written copy of the list.
Medical Marijuana Patients’ List of Grievances
The grievances were as follows [information provided by the Marijuana Policy Project]:
#10* – No legal protection – Patients will have no protection from arrest until ID cards are issued. The Attorney General’s office has advised the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) not to issue ID cards until the first dispensary opens.
#9 – No urgency on dispensaries – One year after the signing of HB 573, DHHS still has not managed to produce a first draft of the rules that will govern dispensaries.
#8 – Removal of PTSD – Many patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) report significant benefits from using cannabis. These patients include military veterans and victims of violent crime. Such patients can now qualify under the laws of 10 states, but not in New Hampshire.
#7 – No case-by-case approval – Unlike other state laws, New Hampshire’s law requires both a listed symptom and a listed condition to qualify. The Attorney General’s office has advised DHHS to ignore the law’s “case-by-case approval” language that would allow providers to certify patients with rare conditions or unique circumstances. As a result, rules have been adopted that will exclude patients with compelling needs, including those suffering from epilepsy.
#6 – Unreasonable requirements for providers – DHHS has adopted rules that exceed its statutory authority by requiring providers to justify their certifications by handing over medical records.
#5 – Unreasonable requirements for patients – Under New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law, it is a crime to possess cannabis in “Drug Free Zones”. This means a patient living within such a zone – or even driving through such a zone – would not be legally allowed to possess or use cannabis. This would apply even in the privacy of his or her own home or vehicle, and even if the cannabis is not smoked. It also means any patient or caregiver transporting cannabis within two or three blocks of a school would be inadvertently committing a crime. The law also includes an absurd requirement that patients must have written permission before they can consume cannabis on another person’s property.
#4 – Opposition to reducing penalties – New Hampshire is the only state in New England where simple possession of marijuana remains a crime punishable by possible jail time. Reducing penalties would reduce patients’ and their family members’ exposure to the criminal justice system if they possess cannabis for therapeutic purposes, including while they wait for ID cards to become available.
#3 – Police Chief on Advisory Council – The first person appointed to serve as “a member of the public” on the Advisory Council was Tuftonboro Chief of Police Andrew Shagoury. Chief Shagoury was one of the leading opponents of allowing patients access to cannabis. His opposition to the interests of patients continues. The legislature has since voted to give the police chiefs’ association its own spot on the council. But patients are afraid that yet another opponent will be appointed to represent the public.
#2 – No patient representative on Advisory Council – The first patient appointed to the Advisory Council has not attended a single meeting. This is unacceptable.
#1 – Home cultivation by patients remains a felony – Patients know that if they lived in any neighboring state, they could legally grow their own plants.
*These are not in any particular order but are numbered for ease of reference.