CONCORD, NH – “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire remains the only New England state that does not allow medical marijuana, and a new poll shows that voters are ready to join their neighbors in allowing compassionate use of cannabis.
More than two-thirds (68%) of New Hampshire voters think the state should enact a law allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it, according to a survey conducted this week by Public Policy Polling (PPP). Just 26% said they were opposed.
New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that does not allow medical marijuana.
The poll, which is being released just as state lawmakers prepare to consider a medical marijuana bill in this year’s legislative session, also found that 52% of voters would be more likely to vote for a state legislator if he or she voted for such legislation. Just 27% said they’d be less likely.
“Voters in New Hampshire are more than ready to move forward with allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana to ease their pain and treat their symptoms is a lot more popular these days than threatening them with arrest and prosecution.”
State Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter) has requested the filing of a medical marijuana bill to be considered in this year’s legislative session, and advocates are hopeful that it will receive majority support in both the House and Senate. Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed support for passing medical marijuana legislation. A medical marijuana bill that passed with bipartisan support last session was vetoed by then-governor John Lynch.
Legislators will also consider a bill this year that would decriminalize marijuana and a separate bill that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. The PPP survey found that 62% support enacting a law to replace criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a fine and no jail time, and 53% support taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.
This strong support may be the result of voters increasingly recognizing the relative safety compared to prescription painkillers and alcohol. The PPP poll found that 70% of voters believe marijuana is a safer treatment for debilitating pain than Oxycontin, and that a strong plurality believes it is less harmful than alcohol.
“We applaud lawmakers for initiating debate about broader reform, but we must move quickly to pass legislation that will protect people who use marijuana in the treatment of their debilitating medical conditions,” Simon said. “There are a lot of seriously ill patients in New Hampshire who cannot wait any longer to get legal, safe, and reliable access to their medicine.”
The PPP survey of 857 New Hampshire voters was conducted January 7-8. The full results can be downloaded at http://www.mpp.org/NHpoll