CONCORD, NH – The House Committee on Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs held a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to obtain and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
Introduced earlier this month by State Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), H.B. 573 would allow patients to grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes or obtain marijuana through one of five state-licensed alternative treatment centers.
The committee heard four hours of testimony from supporters of the proposal, including several patients with serious illnesses and disabilities who have been working for years to pass the bill.
“I’ve been fighting for this bill since 2007, and this will probably be the last year I am physically strong enough to visit Concord,” said Clayton Holton, a 27-year-old Rochester resident suffering from muscular dystrophy. “I’m very hopeful this will be the year it finally passes.”
Holton told legislators his weight has fallen to just 66 pounds, alluding to marijuana’s ability to stimulate appetite in malnourished patients suffering from conditions such as his. He also reported that he would be able to use fewer narcotic painkillers if marijuana became a legal alternative.
“There are many patients like Clayton who simply don’t have time to wait for this,” said Matt Simon, a Goffstown-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “No patient should ever be forced to move out of New Hampshire in order to follow a doctor’s advice, but that’s precisely the position in which some of these patients have been placed.”
H.B. 573 will now be examined by a subcommittee before receiving a vote in the House Committee on Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs on March 5.
A similar bill passed with bipartisan support in both legislative bodies last year, but was vetoed by then-governor John Lynch. Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed support for medical marijuana legislation.
A Granite State Poll conducted earlier in February found that 79% of New Hampshire adults support allowing doctors to recommend marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. Lawmakers in 12 states have proposed similar legislation this year, and medical marijuana bills are expected to be brought forward in an additional six states.