by NORMA LOVE
---- — CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire is poised to become the 19th state to allow seriously ill people to possess and use marijuana for medical reasons.
The Legislature voted 284-66 yesterday on compromise legislation that Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she will sign. The bill allows patients diagnosed with cancer, Crohn’s disease and other conditions to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana obtained from one of four dispensaries authorized by the state.
The dispensaries could have a maximum of 80 marijuana plants, 160 seedlings and 80 ounces of marijuana or 6 ounces per qualifying patient. They also would have a limit of three mature cannabis plants, 12 seedlings and 6 ounces for each patient who designates the dispensary as a treatment center.
The compromise eliminated an option to grow the drug at home. Hassan withdrew her objections to the bill once the home-grow provision was removed.
Home-grow option supporters had argued that some patients need legal access to the drug now and that waiting for dispensaries to start operating put them through needless suffering. They said it could take the state close to a year to write regulations for dispensaries and another year or more for them to begin operations.
The compromise agreed to last week calls for the commission implementing the new system to be appointed as soon as the bill is passed.
To qualify for medical marijuana, a person would have to have been a patient of the prescribing doctor for at least 90 days, have tried other remedies and have exhibited certain symptoms. Only New Hampshire residents would qualify.
The compromise dropped post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition.
Hassan said last week she would sign the compromise because it is the compassionate and right policy for the state.
“This legislation has been a long time coming and is a much-needed victory for those with serious illnesses who find significant relief in medical marijuana,” said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana. Simon said the Illinois Legislature approved similar legislation in May and it is awaiting the governor’s signature.