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N.H. Lawmakers Revisit Marijuana Legalization, 'Home Grow' for Medical Cannabis

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

New Hampshire legislators are starting work on a dozen marijuana bills filed for the 2020 session, including allowing patients enrolled in the state's therapeutic cannabis program to grow their own medical marijuana. 

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard a handful of bills Wednesday that propose expanding qualifying conditions — adding autism, for example — and addressing access and affordability.

The proposed "home grow" option will help some pain patients get off opioid prescriptions entirely, said Sen. John Reagan, a Deerfield Republican who is the lead sponsor of the bill.

"It pretty much mirrors the bill we've seen time and time again to allow patients to cultivate cannabis," he testified.

Matt Simon, of the Marijuana Policy Project, says this and other similar bills have passed in the House and Senate before, only to be vetoed by the governor.

"I hope that this will be the year that we finally stop reenacting this drama and that we join the neighboring states that do, in fact, allow this without significant problems," he said.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police continues to oppose home cultivation for patients.

A similar measure was vetoed six months ago by Governor Chris Sununu.

A familiar fight is expected over two other bills that propose legalizing recreational marijuana - one that calls for allowing adults to possess up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis and 5 grams of hashish, and to grow up to six plants — but without a commercial market. That bill has a public hearing today.

Sununu remains opposed to marijuana legalization.

Opponents of legalization contend New Hampshire should not take this step out of concern for public health and safety, and amid an opioid epidemic. Supporters argue New Hampshire should not be the "island of prohibition," when neighboring states have legalized adult use marijuana.  They say qualified medical marijuana patients often head out of state to buy cannabis, or grow their own, regardless of the law.

Other bills lawmakers will include this session include steps to allow qualified patients to access additional dispenaries statewide, employment protections for qualified patients, and allowing patients visiting from other states to access New Hampshire dispensaries.

There are now more than 8,000 Granite Staters enrolled under the state's therapeutic cannabis law.

Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.

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