“I encourage the full legislature to pass this compromise so I can sign this legislation into law” -- NH Gov. Maggie Hassan
CONCORD, NH — The New Hampshire legislature will vote Wednesday on a medical marijuana compromise bill after successful negotiations last week reconciled differences between bills passed previously in both chambers.
The bill, House Bill 573, allows qualifying patients to obtain medical marijuana from one of four special dispensaries across the state beginning in 2015, abandoning the House’s proposal that patients or their caretakers would be allowed to grow their own marijuana.
The vote, scheduled for Wednesday, is expected to pass both chambers, sending the bill to the desk of Governor Maggie Hassan for final approval.
Governor Hassan has said that she will sign the bill, now that the compromise has been reached and her concerns have been addressed.
“I encourage the full legislature to pass this compromise so I can sign this legislation into law,” Hassan said last week.
“Allowing doctors to provide relief to patients through the use of appropriately regulated and dispensed medical marijuana is the compassionate and right policy for the State of New Hampshire,” Gov. Hassan said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Hassan, who voted in favor of medical marijuana legalization as a state senator in 2009, was against the home cultivation provision initially included in the original bill, citing concerns of law enforcement who said that by allowing patients to grow their own marijuana, it would make regulation difficult and medical marijuana could be diverted to the recreational use black market.
House lawmakers, who approved a version of the medical marijuana bill that included home cultivation of up to three marijuana plants by patients with a veto-proof 286-64 vote in March, agreed to drop the home cultivation provision in exchange for having a medical marijuana oversight commission that will start work as soon as the bill is enacted.
Negotiators from the House gave in to the removal of home cultivation after Senators Nancy Stiles (R-Hampton) and John Reagan (R-Deerfield) said that the bill simply would not become law if it allowed patients to grow their own marijuana.
“We wanted a bill that was going to pass,” Sen. Stiles said. ”‘This is a first step, things can always be added later on.”
Tuesday’s compromise also saw the number of dispensaries allowed in the state reduced from five to four, and the removal of post-traumatic stress disorder from the list of qualifying conditions.
The bill will become law immediately upon Governor Hassan’s signature. The state Department of Health and Human Services must then licence at least two medical marijuana dispensaries within the first 18 months.
The first medical marijuana dispensaries in New Hampshire are expected to open in 2015.