CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire residents anxiously awaiting the legalization of medical marijuana in the Granite State will have to keep waiting, at least for a little while longer.
The New Hampshire Legislature passed House Bill 573 in June, which will allow state residents with serious illnesses obtain up to two ounces of medical marijuana from state licensed dispensaries, but the bill — and about three dozen others — have yet to reach the desk of Governor Maggie Hassan.
According to reports by the Associated Press, House Speaker Terie Norelli has the bill on her desk and is expected to sign it sometime this week before sending it to Senate President Peter Bragdon for his signature. Only then will it be sent to the desk of Gov. Hassan, who has expressed support for medical marijuana in New Hampshire and is expected to sign the bill.
Once received by the Governor, Hassan will have five days to act on the bill. The House Speaker and Senate President, however, are not bound by any such deadlines, and the current hold-up seems to be Speaker Norelli, who’s aide says the Portsmouth Democrat was traveling last week and will sign the medical marijuana bill later this week.
The bill will become law immediately upon Hassan’s signature, but the first dispensaries are not expected to open until 2015.
Although the original bill had allowed for patients and caregivers to be able to grow their own medical marijuana until the dispensaries opened, the final version that passed had that provision removed, and the law will not allow any protection for patients until the first dispensaries are open.
The bill calls for a commission implementing the new medical marijuana program to be appointed as soon as possible.
Unless Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn signs House Bill 1, their recently passed medical marijuana bill, first, New Hampshire will become the 19th medical marijuana state in the US, and the final New England state to authorize medical marijuana usage.
The District of Columbia also has approved the medical use of marijuana, and Maryland approved a medical marijuana research program earlier this year.
Under New Hampshire’s medical marijuana legislation, four medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to open state-wide. The dispensaries must grow their own marijuana, and will be allowed 3 mature plants, 12 seedlings and 6 ounces for each patient registered at the dispensary, with a maximum of 80 mature plants, 160 seedlings, and 80 ounces of ready-to-consume medical marijuana at any time.
The ability for patients or designated caregivers to grow their own marijuana was eliminated by the Senate before the bill’s final passage.
To qualify for medical marijuana, New Hampshire residents must be a patient of the recommending doctor for at least 90 days, have tried other remedies and have exhibited certain symptoms or ailments such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS. Post traumatic stress, however, was removed from the list of qualifying conditions.