CONCORD — The House passed a bill today by a vote of 221-96 that would allow Granite Staters to use marijuana for medical purposes. H.B. 442, which would create a narrow exception in New Hampshire law for people with certain qualifying conditions to use marijuana to treat their ailments with doctors’ recommendations, will now move on to the Senate. Medical marijuana treatment is currently permitted in 15 other states and the District of Columbia, and is being considered in more than a dozen additional state legislatures this year.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Evalyn Merrick (D-Coos), a cancer survivor, and is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford). It would create a tightly regulated ID system for all patients, as well as establish state-licensed alternative treatment centers to provide safe access to medical marijuana. It also includes strict rules regarding public use, impairment, and driving under the influence.
"Today's vote sent a strong message from the House that compassion for patients is not a Blue vs. Red issue in New Hampshire,” said Kirk McNeil, executive director of New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. “Regardless of party affiliation, legislators who study this issue reach the conclusion that seriously ill patients should have safe, legal access to medical marijuana.” Republicans have a nearly 3:1 majority in the House.
The General Court approved a medical marijuana bill in 2009, when Democrats controlled both legislative chambers, but it was vetoed by Gov. John Lynch. The House voted by more than two-thirds to override the veto, but the effort in the Senate fell two votes short. H.B. 442 enjoys strong support among voters. A 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71% of New Hampshire voters are in favor of allowing the use of medical marijuana, with only 21% opposed.
Washington, D.C. and 15 other states, including neighboring Vermont and Maine, have enacted laws protecting patients whose doctors recommend medical marijuana.