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Could New Hampshire Become the 14th Medical Marijuana State?

As Kevin Landrigan reports in a July 7 article for The Nashua Telegraph, ("Medical Marijuana Bill Nearing Lynch's Desk"), New Hamphsire's proposed medical marijuana bill, HB 648, needs just one more signature - that of Senate President Sylvia Larsen - before it heads to the desk of Governor John Lynch. However, the governor has repeatedly told news sources that he has not yet made a decision as to whether or not he will approve the measure, despite the multitude of revisions legislators made to the bill in late June in an attempt to address Lynch's expressed concerns.

Although both New Hampshire's House and Senate approved an earlier, less restrictive version of the bill, Lynch made it clear that he would veto the measure in its original state. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) usefully provides interested parties with a list detailing Lynch's eight major problems with the earlier draft, stating that the governor's "primary concern was the method of access." Landrigan supports that assertion, writing that, although he was still undecided on the issue, Lynch "would watch closely if the new rewrite [...] addressed his concerns about 'distribution.'" In an attempt to ease the governor's mind, lawmakers made several dramatic changes to the bill, key among them an amendment that "remove[d] an earlier right for patients and caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana" and replaced it with a system of distribution centers. As Landrigan explains, "The final compromise restricts possession of the marijuana solely to three and eventually as many as five, private, nonprofit 'compassion centers' presumably located in the southern tier of the state," from which patients could obtain "up to two ounces of marijuana for medicinal use every 10 days." Other changes include (but are not limited to) requiring patients to undergo criminal background checks before being certified, setting registration fees at levels that cover the program's cost, narrowing the definition of a "debilitating medical condition," and allowing law enforcement officials to collect and share information about patients if those officials suspect a patient is illegally distributing his or her marijuana.

Whether or not Lynch will ultimately sign the bill into law is anyone's guess, but - as of July 7 - the governor has just five days, excluding Sundays and holidays, "to decide whether to sign, veto the bill or let it become law without his signature."

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