Medical Marijuana Bill Passes New Hampshire House, 234-138

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The New Hampshire House passed a bill today, 234-138, that would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctor recommends it – a first for either chamber of the state's legislature.

    Now that the bill – HB 648, sponsored by Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster) – has cleared the House, patients and advocates are calling on the Senate to pass it and send it to Gov. John Lynch to make it law without delay.

    "This vote proves that House members have taken this debate seriously, listened carefully to the testimony of patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from terrible, debilitating conditions, and understand their duty as elected officials to provide for their needs with responsible, compassionate legislation," said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), co-sponsor of the bill that the House passed today. "Now it's up to my colleagues to do the same, and end the ongoing harassment of patients who have committed no crimes, and who only wish to be protected from arrest for using the proven, safe medicine their doctors recommend."

    In 2007, a bill similar to the one currently under consideration was defeated by only nine votes – an incredibly slim margin considering it had been negatively recommended by the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee that year. The same committee gave HB 648 an "ought to pass" recommendation March 18. Also, a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71 percent of New Hampshire voters support such a law, and medical marijuana advocates say legislators have learned a lot in two years about both medical marijuana and medical marijuana policy.

    "This vote shows New Hampshire is ready to protect patients by enacting a responsible medical marijuana law," said Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy executive director. "Public opinion may soon become public policy."

    Thirteen states already have medical marijuana laws which effectively protect qualifying patients from arrest and help them safely access marijuana. Michigan became the most recent last year when 63 percent of voters passed its medical marijuana law by ballot initiative. Of the 11 states that have collected such data, not one has seen youth marijuana use rates increase after establishing a medical marijuana law. In fact, each of those states, including California, has actually seen youth marijuana rates decline, in some cases dramatically.