Patient Cultivation Passes NH Senate

When the New Hampshire Senate passed SB 409 last week, perhaps the most noteworthy component of the story was overlooked. Bucking the unfortunate and ill-advised trend of “recently” passed bills in east coast states like New Jersey and Delaware, and the District of Columbia, the New Hampshire Senate made the compassionate and pragmatic decision to include patient cultivation in their medical cannabis bill. This is one of the most encouraging state legislative developments for medical cannabis to take place in 2012.

The use of the quotations around “recently” in the prior paragraph was deliberate to illustrate what happens when states refuse to include patient cultivation rights with their medical cannabis programs. Both DC and and New Jersey passed their medical cannabis laws about 2 years ago, and both places have been extremely slow to implement their medical cannabis programs. Progress with New Jersey program has been moving with all of the swiftness of a turtle walking sideways. In fact, the painfully slow implementation has caused at least one patient to sue the state for relief.  Result: no safe access in New Jersey.

In DC, things have moved slightly quicker pace, but only in the sense that ketchup drips faster than molasses. Nearly 23 months since the DC Council passed its medical cannabis law (which was originally passed by DC voters in 1998 [or 173 months ago!]), cultivation centers were at long last officially awarded. Now DC patients must await for the District to approve the dispensary locations (which are facing NIMBY scrutiny by Councilmembers), establish the registry system for obtaining patient ID cards, and hope that the less than 600 plants permitted by the District program (6 locations, 95 plants each) can support the medical cannabis needs of community with 3% adult HIV infection. That’s over 15,000 potential patients from just one of the extremely narrow approved qualifying conditions. Add in DC's cancer, glaucoma, and MS populations, and one can easily predict that the DC dispensaries are going to resemble the completely bare shelves of a Soviet Union-era supermarket. Result: no safe access in DC.

The Delaware law? Their bill that lacked patient cultivation rights was nixed by executive order in February when  Gov. Merkell caved under the pressure a US Attorney threat letter, mere months after he signed the law. Result: no safe access in Delaware.

Yet the state that approved medical cannabis during the same time frame as NJ, DC and DE that from the outside might appear to have the most tumultuous medical cannabis program is actually the one that is best serving patients. Those who qualify as patients in Arizona now have the right to grow their own medical cannabis, in spite of the several medical cannabis lawsuits brought forward by or against Governor Jan Brewer. The state even hosts a website that lets residents know who is eligible to cultivate. Result: Unlike patients in NJ, DC, and DE, Arizonan patients have legal access to medicine.

Patient cultivation rights are certainly not the only component of an ideal medical cannabis law, but without the right for patients to grow their own medicine, patients are forced to rely slow moving bureaucracies, or worse, the black market, to obtain the medicine they need.