CONCORD, NH — The Republican-dominated New Hampshire House ignored a veto threat from Democratic Gov. John Lynch and voted 236-96 to make the “Live Free or Die” state the 17th state to allow marijuana for medical purposes on Wednesday. The bill, which would allow seriously ill patients to use and grow medical marijuana if recommended by their doctor, already passed the Republican-dominated Senate in a 13-11 vote March 28.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), said support for passing a responsibly crafted medical marijuana bill is perfectly consistent with Republican principles. “I’ve never used marijuana in my life,” the former Air Force pilot explained, “but as a matter of principle, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for government to interfere with choices that should be made between a doctor and a patient.”
“The promise to veto medical marijuana by Gov. Lynch shows a disappointing lack of compassion for patients battling illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and AIDS,” he added.
Gov. Lynch vetoed a similar bill in 2009 when the House and Senate were both controlled by Democrats, and the override effort fell two votes short. Only one Republican senator supported the 2009 bill, but this year the Senate is comprised of 19 Republicans and five Democrats, and eight Republicans joined their five Democratic colleagues to support SB 409 in the March 28 vote.
Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, praised the House for ignoring Gov. Lynch’s veto threat. “Gov. Lynch has repeatedly shown he is way out of touch on this issue, and since he has been unwilling to support a responsible medical marijuana law for New Hampshire’s most seriously ill patients, the House and Senate will simply have to get this done without the governor’s support.”
The bill is expected to be referred to a second House committee for further consideration before returning to the Senate for a concurrence vote. The Senate passed SB 409 March 28 in a 13-11 vote, so support from three additional senators will be necessary to override the expected veto.
Sen. Forsythe expressed optimism after the House vote. “We’ve gone from having one Senate Republican in support of this issue a few years ago to now having eight Senate Republicans March 28,” he observed. “With this kind of momentum behind SB 409, I believe three additional Senate votes are very possible, and it’s a goal we’ll be working very hard to achieve in the coming weeks.”