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July 25, 2013

Medical marijuana centers could take years to open

Medical marijuana may be legal in New Hampshire, but don’t expect to be treated with it anytime soon.

By signing the new law Wednesday, Gov. Maggie Hassan started the process of getting four medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. But it will be a while before they are actually operating.

“It would be a surprise if two years from now they are up and running,” said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project.

The Marijuana Policy Project focuses on changing policies to make marijuana available to seriously ill people.

New Hampshire is the 19th state to allow medical marijuana and the last of the New England states.

The law says the Department of Health and Human Services has 18 months to grant registrations for at least two applicants for a dispensary. But prior to that, DHHS has one year to determine the rules for anyone who applies for a license.

“There are significant implementation issues around the establishment of rules for issuing cards to those eligible to receive treatment,” said John Williams, director of legislative affairs for DHHS.”

Simon said he expects 1,000 residents to have cards once they can be issued.

The rules they will discuss are administrative and outline the internal process of handing out identification cards to those who qualify to be treated.

“It just needs to be controlled and it needs to make sure that it’s only in the hands of people who need it,” said Rep. Timothy Robertson, D-Keene, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

The law states that anyone who receives a card must be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition. Those conditions include cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

They also have to determine the guidelines for granting a license for the dispensaries. Some of those rules have already been defined by the law. There can be no more than four dispensaries in the state and they can’t be in a residential district or within 1,000 feet of a school.

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