A New Hampshire bill to legalize home-grown cannabis has been stalled in Senate discussions on Monday, and it’s likely the bill won’t make it to the floor again this legislative session. One step away from outright killing the bill, state lawmakers approved a motion to at least continue studying the issue. Debates on the Senate floor Monday, however, illustrate the confusion and divisiveness surrounding the question of whether to allow medical marijuana patients in New Hampshire to grow their own medicine.
New Hampshire Medical Marijuana Patients Still Can’t Grow Medicine At Home
New Hampshire House Bill 1476 would have filled an important gap in the state’s current medical cannabis program. Its rejection in the Senate today marks a setback toward expanding access for the state’s 3500 medical cannabis patients.
Currently, patients have to purchase medical cannabis products from one of the state’s licensed dispensaries. And although New Hampshire has increased the number of dispensaries in recent months, they remain out of reach for many patients.
Cost also represents another burden for low-income patients. In New Hampshire, dispensaries essentially charge street prices for an ounce of flower.
“We have increased the number of dispensaries, but we need more,” said Sen Martha Hennessey, one of the bill’s proponents.
“And those with disabilities often cannot get to the dispensaries we do have. Once they do get there … they can’t afford it because it’s costing approximately $300-$400 dollars an ounce,” Hennessey added.
Faced with unreasonably high costs, patients are likewise blocked by a law that bans home cannabis cultivation. The result is patients registered with a program but unable to obtain the medicine to which they’re legally entitled.
And as a New Hampshire Bill to legalize home-grown cannabis was stalled in the Senate Monday afternoon, medical marijuana patients in the state still can’t grow medicine at home.
Senators Press To Pass Home-Grown Cannabis Bil, But Come Up Short
Senators who support HB 1476 pressed their colleagues on the floor Monday to approve the bill. But they were ultimately unable to overcome concerns from tentative lawmakers.
Sen. Bob Giuda (R–Warren) echoed Sen. Hennessey’s concerns about access and affordability. “I’ve always supported the use of it [medical marijuana], I will likely do the same here, because again we’re dealing with people who are in difficult circumstance, remote and paying just exorbitant prices,” Giuda said.
But Sens. Sharon Carons (R-Londonderry) and Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) raised concerns about both the quality of home-grown medicine and potential problems for law enforcement and regulation.
Sen. Carons was skeptical about sourcing and quality for home grown medical cannabis plants. Rightly pointing out that medical cannabis products are very specific and tailored to individual needs, Carons argued that “buying generic pot (plants) off the street is not supposed to really work too well.”
For his part, Sen. Bradley said that he was familiar with law enforcement testimony that home cannabis cultivation “without the proper controls is a significant issue in the way that they go about doing their job.”
Bradley felt the problem would solve itself as more dispensaries and home delivery services came online. Competition, he argued, would cut costs for patients.
But Senator John Reagan (R-Deerfield) challenged the notion that the issue needed further study at all. He argued Senators who felt they lacked adequate information about home cultivation could look to neighboring Maine.
Maine’s medical marijuana program has been home cultivation from the beginning, in 1999. Reagan said the police chief of Orno, Maine told him “there’s not a police chief in Maine that’s worried about homegrown cannabis.”
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee already rejected HB 1476 in late April. The committee recommended the bill go back to “interim study”. But there was still a chance the bill, which passed the House earlier this year, could pass a full Senate vote. On Monday, however, the full Senate voted the way of the committee and rejected the bill.
If passed, HB 1476 would have permitted qualifying patients and their caregivers to grow at max two mature cannabis plants and 12 seedlings. Additionally, anyone growing plants could gift cannabis to other registered patients and caregivers. For now, however, patients will have to stick with New Hampshire’s pricey dispensaries.