Will New Hampshire live up to its state motto by adopting compassionate use?
Over the past twelve years, New Hampshire has attempted several times to legislate the usage of cannabis for medical purposes. A 2009 bill was vetoed by Governor John Lynch. From 2000 to 2007 there were four attempts but the measure did not pass the New Hampshire House. But yesterday's passage of SB 409 through the State Senate and House conference committee is a new opportunity.
The New Hampshire state motto is “Live Free or Die,” however to those who live in New Hampshire and are sick, hurt and longing for a better quality of life, the state motto may feel like the “To Live or Die” state. But we can change that now.
SB 409, the 2012 New Hampshire Medical Marijuana Bill sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Forsythe, differs from previous attempts. The language is different, the key politicians are different, the activism is different. In the end, will the result be same or is 2012 the year to achieve success?
We think this may be the best chance we have!
New Hampshire has the largest state legislature in the union with 400 House members and 24 Senators. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the legislature, but, perhaps ironically, medical marijuana has found great support among Republicans.
Legislators who in the past voted against medical marijuana, such as Senator Jeb Bradley, Gary Lambert and Peter Bragdon, now support SB 409. Senator Bradley even publicly stated to New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association representative Richard Crate at the Senate hearing that their opposition to the issue, “does not reflect the fact that for some, medical marijuana works.”
NH Compassion Executive Director Kirk McNeil and Matt Simon, a Marijuana Policy Project  Legislative Analyst, have been working alongside activists like me and other various groups to pass the bill. We built a broad coalition including NH Students for Sensible Drug Policy led by Jennifer Hall, NH Disabled American Veterans, NH Vets for Peace, and Americans for Safe Access, just to name a few.
Patients, veterans and students bravely gave public testimony
Over the past few months members of the public have testified at open public hearings on the effectiveness of medical marijuana in helping them battle disease and disability. The most dramatic and passionate testimony has come from New Hampshire veterans, many of whom have said without the ability to use cannabis for medical reasons, they and their families would have been destroyed. The one thing that frightens them and the main reason why they are speaking out is because in order to get medical marijuana, the patient must put their family members at risk to procure the medicine.
Governor Lynch cites the federal ban on cannabis as listed on CSA schedule 1 - that cannabis has no accepted medicinal use - as the reason why he continues to oppose a compassionate use law. Well, with the Food and Drug Administration allows international companies like GW Pharmaceuticals in England to offer a phase III clinical study on human patients in the United States And of course there is the famous Compassionate Individual New Drug Program, the federal program that allows qualifying patients to use cannabis for palliative and therapeutic relief. Today there are only two surviving patients out of the initial 34 patients who receive 200 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes a month. One vocal program member, Irvin Rosenfeld, attended a press conference and met with legislators in Concord in May to discuss this program and support state efforts on SB 409.
While our own federal government ignores these studies and continues to put sick patients, veterans and others behind bars for using or providing medical cannabis, our state legislators are attempting to help New Hampshire residents to have a better quality of life. Pharmaceuticals which have been prescribed by doctors and pushed by the “Big Pharma” can have unacceptable side affects or not work well for everyone. The opportunity to legally use cannabis for medical purposes is a chance to allow our sick the ability to be productive parents, husbands and wives - not to mention a healthier person.
How can Governor Lynch continue to say he is the leader of New Hampshire, the original freedom-loving state, when he fails to lead in being compassionate to the sick? Do the special interests of big business, health care networks and others mean more to him than the ability for a NH veteran or a single mother of three to be healthier individuals using medical cannabis as an alternative medicine?
Without compassion toward suffering patients who want to use medical cannabis, The “Live Free or Die” state is not practicing what the state motto preaches. Until the Governor changes his position, New Hampshire residents will just have to “Live or Die.” It is obvious over the past twelve years that New Hampshire has been walking down a road to legalize medical marijuana. With 71% of New Hampshire residents supporting safe access, how can the governor maintain his heartless position?
If you live in New Hampshire, please contact Governor Lynch at 603-271-2121, or tweet at him @GovJohnLynch, and ask him to have compassion for patients and sign SB 409 into law.
Gregory Pawlowski is a patient and advocate in New Hampshire.
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