|Patrick Whittemore/Boston Herald|
|New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, for the second time since 2009, has vetoed a bill which would have provided safe access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients in his state|
Patients’ Hopes Now Rest With House and Senate
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch on Thursday followed through on his threat to veto SB 409, New Hampshire’s medical marijuana bill. The bill will now return to the House and Senate for a final vote that will decide the bill’s fate.
Veto override votes are planned for June 27 in both the House and Senate.
The veto came as no surprise. Lynch vetoed similar legislation in 2009, after which the House voted by more than two-thirds to override the veto, but support in the Senate fell two votes short of the necessary two-thirds.
Senator Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), prime sponsor of SB 409, vowed he would continue urging his colleagues to vote in favor so seriously ill patients can finally be protected from arrest if their doctors recommend medical marijuana.
“This is a limited, responsible bill, and it’s designed to protect some of our state’s most desperately ill citizens,” Forsythe said. “SB 409 has gained momentum and support throughout the legislative process, and the result of our hard work is a bill the House and Senate should be proud to pass into law.”.
|Matt Simon, Marijuana Policy Project: “Governor Lynch has chosen to bury his head in the sand on this issue”|
SB 409 passed the New Hampshire House by an overwhelming vote of 236 to 96, more than the two-thirds needed to override the governor’s veto. However, because of a narrower margin in the Senate, an override is less certain.
The bill would protect the right of qualifying patients to cultivate their own medical marijuana or designate a caregiver to cultivate it for them, and would limit possession to six plans and six ounces of dried marijuana.
Advocates were successful during deliberations to incorporate patient cultivation into the list of enumerated rights, something common to most state medical marijuana laws, but absent from the more recent laws passed in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. In states without patient cultivation, implementation has lagged thereby causing the rights of thousands of otherwise qualifying patients to be denied. The sluggish pace of implementation is also due in part to threats of criminal prosecution being made by the Obama Administration.
Advocates in New Hampshire also pushed for and achieved the passage of other amendments to SB 409, such as one that would protect organ transplant patients against discrimination. Purging medical marijuana patients from transplant lists is a common practice at transplant centers across the country, including the internationally renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
|Medical Marijuana 411|
|Steph Sherer, Americans for Safe Access: “Unfortunately, a departing governor with an axe to grind is getting in the way of this important and popularly supported legislation”|
SB 409 originally called for “Alternative Treatment Centers,” centralized regulated facilities where patients could safely and legally obtain their medication. This provision, however, was stricken from the bill during deliberations. States with older medical marijuana laws, such as California, Maine, Vermont, and Washington, which originally excluded distribution systems, have either recently adopted or are trying to pass amendments that recognize that need.
The passage of SB 409 and Governor Lynch’s veto comes as Connecticut adopted a law earlier this month, making it the 17th medical marijuana state. Medical marijuana laws have been passed in the States of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C.
Tuftonboro resident Ted Wright, whose wife Cindy has been battling breast cancer more than 18 years, urged the House and Senate to do the right thing and protect patients. “Despite the governor’s unfortunate veto, there’s no reason patients like Cindy should have to wait another day for medical marijuana to be a legal option,” Wright explained.
Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed, saying, “Governor Lynch has chosen to bury his head in the sand on this issue, but ultimately it will be legislators who decide the fate of patients, and they know their constituents will be watching.”
“We applaud the New Hampshire legislature for trying to meet the health care needs of thousands of its citizens,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy organization. “Unfortunately, a departing governor with an axe to grind is getting in the way of this important and popularly supported legislation. We’re now calling on the legislature to rise to the occasion, and override the governor’s veto.”