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New Hampshire became the 19th state with a medical cannabis law, and the last in New England, when then-Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB 573, entitled Use of Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes (the “Act”), into law. Prior versions of medical marijuana legislation had been vetoed twice before. The Act establishes a therapeutic cannabis program by which “qualifying patients” and “designated caregivers” as such terms are defined in the Act, who are registered with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Service’s (the “Health Department”), are given access to cannabis and afforded certain protections under state and local law. Qualifying patients are largely protected from arrest or prosecution by state and local authorities and may not be denied any right or privilege for the therapeutic use of cannabis on the basis of their status. The Act provides a rebuttable presumption and states that it shall be an affirmative defense to certain enumerated cannabis-related offenses for qualifying patients and designated caregivers that they are lawfully engaged in the therapeutic use of cannabis, so long as they are in possession of a valid registry identification card and are in possession of cannabis in a location and in a quantity not in excess of what is considered permissible under the Act to carry out such lawful purposes.
To be protected under the law, patients and caregivers must be registered with the Health Department and in possession of a registry ID card. Qualifying patients must be residents of New Hampshire and must have been diagnosed with a qualifying condition. Designated caregivers must be at least 21 years of age. Qualifying patients registered with the program will be allowed to possess up to two ounces of “usable” cannabis. A registered patient in possession of cannabis outside of their home and not in possession of their registry ID card is subject to a fine of up to $100. No cultivation of cannabis is allowed except by the approved not-for-profit dispensaries, called “alternative treatment centers” under the Act (“ATCs”), and in controlled amounts. Cannabis must be obtained by the registered patient or his or her designated registered caregiver from one of up to four ATCs permitted licensed by the state at any given time to dispense cannabis to patients. The law requires the Health Department to promulgate rules for administering ID cards and licensing dispensing centers within certain time periods of the effective date of the Act. A patient may designate only one caregiver, and a caregiver may assist up to five patients at any given time. Caregivers’ activities are limited to transporting medicine from licensed centers and assisting with administration.
Health Department has established regulations for the program and started soliciting applications for Alternative Treatment Center operators in 2014. As of January 2017, there are three ATCs, with dispensary locations in Dover, Merrimack, Lebanon, and Plymouth.
The state began pre-registration of patients and caregivers in November of 2015, and current forms are available online. The Act and Health Department rules provide that a registration ID card application will be approved or denied within 15 days of receipt of a completed application and, if approved, a registry ID card will be issued within five days of such approval. Currently, the non-refundable application and renewal fee is set at $50.00. Applications for renewal, together with the fee, must be re-submitted annually.
Use of Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes, Chapter 126-X, New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated.
Administrative Rules - He-C 400
New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services- Therapeutic Cannabis Program
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