CONCORD, NH -- In a huge victory for patients and their families, the New Hampshire Senate voted Wednesday to approve New Hampshire’s medical marijuana bill, SB 409, in a 13-11 vote.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), thanked his colleagues for their open-mindedness and willingness to take a chance: “I know this was a difficult vote for several of my colleagues, and I applaud them for asking the tough questions that helped us make this a better bill.”
The intent here has never been to turn New Hampshire into California,” he added. “We’ve worked hard to make sure SB 409 will protect patients and their families without opening to door to abuse, and I’m very pleased that a majority of my colleagues ultimately chose to support this bill.”
Sen. Ray White (R-Bedford) and Sen. John Gallus (R-Berlin) are the bill’s Senate co-sponsors. House co-sponsors include Rep. Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster), a cancer survivor, and Rep. Jennifer Coffey (R-Andover), a licensed EMT.
Rep. Merrick, who led the charge on medical marijuana legislation in 2009 and 2011, expressed delight with the Senate vote: “All along we’ve been saying that this issue transcends partisan boundaries, and it’s very gratifying to see so many Republicans join the growing bipartisan consensus in support of medical marijuana.”
SB 409 would allow patients with serious illnesses such as MS, cancer, and AIDS to register with the Department of Health and Human Services and receive ID cards protecting them from arrest if their doctor recommends marijuana. Qualifying patients would be permitted to cultivate up to four mature plants in an enclosed, locked facility.
The bill was previously approved in a surprising 5-0 vote on March 22 by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. A similar bill passed the House 229-96 in 2011 before being tabled and killed by the Senate. In 2009, a medical marijuana bill passed both the House and Senate; the House voted to override a gubernatorial veto, but the Senate override effort fell two votes short.
Clayton Holton, a muscular dystrophy patient from Somersworth who has advocated for this reform since 2007, summed up the response of patients: “I’m really happy to see the Senate agree once again that patients like me aren’t criminals.”