By John Toole
---- — New Hampshire is close to letting sick people use marijuana for relief.
House and Senate conferees this week agreed on a plan to limit distribution to four dispensaries, though it’s too soon to say whether Rockingham County would get one.
Gov. Maggie Hassan is ready to approve the plan, now that lawmakers have eliminated a House-passed provision letting sick people grow marijuana.
“I have always maintained that allowing doctors to provide relief to patients through the use of appropriately regulated and dispensed medical marijuana is the compassionate and right policy for the state of New Hampshire,” Hassan said.
House Bill 573 would let patients use marijuana as soon as 2015, once a regulated system is in place.
New Hampshire would be the last state in New England to permit the use of marijuana for medical reasons.
Doctors would prescribe marijuana and patients could have up to two ounces for illnesses such as cancer.
Legislation would cap the number of plants and ounces of marijuana allowed at a dispensary.
“It is a big accomplishment,” Rep. Debra DeSimone, R-Atkinson, a co-sponsor, said. “I think this will be really good for anyone who needs that relief.”
Rep. Patrick “Paddy” Culbert, R-Pelham, supported the bill. His late wife, Judy, who died in 2007 from cancer, used marijuana once to ease her suffering.
“The drugs they had did not work for her. She used marijuana once and was pain-free, but was too afraid to use it again. She died an agonizing death,” Culbert said.
He shared her story with fellow legislators this session, urging them to approve using marijuana for medical reasons.
Culbert was delighted conferees reached agreement and that the governor is ready to sign the bill. “I’m pleased as punch,” Culbert said.
The Legislature will take up the compromise plan next week.
Where the dispensaries are located will be determined later, but DeSimone would like to see Rockingham County — the state’s second most populated county — get one.
“That’s my hope,” DeSimone said.
The bill does say geography should be a consideration, as well as patient health and public safety.
Dispensaries are barred from residential zones or within 1,000 feet of schools.
While patients could use marijuana, they would still be subject to prosecution for offenses such as driving under the influence.
Families would have to turn in unused marijuana after a patient’s death.