A bill to allow patients in New Hampshire's therapeutic cannabis program to grow some of their own marijuana has won support from a key Senate committee.
Next week, the full Senate will consider permitting patients and designated caregivers to grow a limited amount of cannabis.
The House passed a similar bill last month. The Senate has never supported home cultivation legislation before.
Senator John Reagan, a co-sponsor of the bill, led the legislative effort for the establishment of the therapeutic cannabis law in 2013. There are more than 7,000 people enrolled the program, and an estimated 449 designated caregivers, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
But access to existing Alternative Treatment Centers continues to be an issue for some approved patients, Reagan says.
In testimony to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, several patients enrolled in the medical marijuana program also cited cost factors, and availability of certain types of cannabis.
The committee recommended the Senate adopt the home-grow provision by a 3-2 vote.
"We’re hopeful once again that we can get all of the medical experts in the general court to let people that know something about it rule the day," Reagan said in an interview Thursday. "This is a very small population that we’re dealing with here in the home cultivation."
The bill also allows qualified patients and caregivers to donate excess cannabis to other patients, as long as they are enrolled in the state program. It limits possession to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings. The legislation spells out restrictions on the cultivation locations, including limiting it from public view, and limiting the square feet of the plant canopy.
The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the bill.
Senator James Gray says he opposes it for a couple of reasons.
“I think right now the places that we’ve authorized to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes - we have many many controls over that place, including walls, cameras, etc.," he said. "And opening up to home grow just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. It’s still illegal federally.”
Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, says qualifying patients should not be considered criminals if they grow their own cannabis. "Previous home cultivation bills have all been killed by the Senate, and the result has been a lot of unnecessary suffering for patients who cannot afford to buy cannabis from dispensaries," he said in a statement.
The amended bill clarifies, in part, where cultivation areas may be located, and all areas must be recorded by the state. A cultivation area is defined as a locked and enclosed site under the control of the patient or caregiver, and that the location "shall be at that person's residence" and where necessary, with permission of the owner.