New Hampshire residents hoping to get access to medical marijuana are still waiting for the state’s dispensaries to open.
Right now, those new facilities still have to go through a few more rounds of inspections before they can open their doors and start serving patients. Once they do open, patients will only be able to visit one dispensary at a time. And for residents in the northernmost region of the state, the nearest dispensary could be at least two hours away.
Here’s a rundown of where things stand — and where, exactly, New Hampshire patients will eventually be able to get medical marijuana.
But first, some quick background: New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana in 2013, but patients aren't allowed to grow their own plants at home. Instead, DHHS is overseeing a system of four state-licensed dispensaries where patients (or caregivers, on patients' behalf) can buy the products.
The dispensary operators can grow medical marijuana at other pre-approved locations throughout the state. To obtain medical marijuana, New Hampshire patients have to ask a medical provider for written certification and apply for an official ID card from DHHS, which certifies that they're legally allowed to purchase and possess the drug.
(Scroll down for an interactive map showing dispensary locations across Northern New England.)
What's going on with New Hampshire's dispensaries?
For the most part, they’re still working on clearing hurdles at the state and municipal level.
- Prime ATC — 380 Daniel Webster Highway,Merrimack
Cultivation: Hasn’t started growing cannabis yet. DHHS says it’s working on set up a meeting to check in on the cultivation site’s status.
Dispensary status: Moved its Merrimack dispensary to a new proposed location (380 Daniel Webster Highway) at the beginning of February, citing “landlord issues" at its previous location on another stretch of Daniel Webster Highway. Thomas More College raised concerns about the previous location’s proximity to its campus, but Merrimack Community Development Director Tim Thompson said that issue seems to be resolved. Thompson said Prime ATC is working to meet the town’s requirements to start working on the new property “within the next couple of weeks.”
- Sanctuary ATC — 568 Tenney Mountain Highway, Plymouth
Cultivation: Approved to start the cultivation process in January. Josh Weaver, with Sanctuary ATC, said the company began the cultivation process a few weeks ago, and the plants are “looking very healthy and poised for continued growth.”
Dispensary status: All local-level requirements have been met, according to Plymouth Town Planner Sharon Penney. The state still needs to inspect the dispensary before it’s allowed to open.
“We are working feverishly for an opening date that is tentatively scheduled in approximately 5-6 weeks,” Weaver wrote in an email.
- Temescal Wellness — 26 Crosby Road, Dover and 367 Route 120, Lebanon
Cultivation: Approved to start the cultivation process in January. Temescal President Ted Rebholz said the company has started growing medical marijuana, and it expects to start serving patients this spring. He added, “We are working to make sure that we’re in full and strict compliance with everything from the state and to start serving patients as soon as possible.”
Dover dispensary status: This location is under development. Assistant City Manager Christopher Parker says Temescal was issued a conditional use permit to start getting the space ready, but the city will need to do a final inspection on the building before it opens.
Lebanon dispensary status: This space is also still in the works but not yet approved fully at the municipal level. Leann Cushman, Secretary for Building Inspectors in Lebanon, said Temescal has a permit to perform renovations on its dispensary site but it hasn’t yet requested a final inspection from the city.
Where does that leave patients right now?
Last year, in response to a lawsuit brought by a woman suffering from terminal lung cancer, a judge ruled that the state could issue identification cards to people who qualify for New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program. Those cards provide legal protection for patients who possess medical marijuana, shielding them from potential criminal charges.
Linda Horan, the plaintiff, received her card and was able to purchase medical marijuana in Maine, one of a handful of states that allows out-of-state patients to buy from its dispensaries. Horan died from complications related to lung cancer on Feb. 1.
DHHS started issuing ID cards to other patients in December. The attorney general, however, continues to fight the judge’s order. It filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, asking for clarification on whether the state’s medical marijuana law “authorizes a New Hampshire patient to obtain or possess cannabis from a source other than the alternative treatment center that the patient designated when applying for a registry identification card with [DHHS].”
Horan’s lawyer, Paul Twomey, has asked the court to dismiss this request — noting that Horan did not designate anyone as a representative to carry on with the case on her behalf.
Does the appeal change anything for patients applying for medical marijuana ID cards with DHHS?
Not right now. DHHS Licensing Chief John Martin said the state is still issuing identification cards to qualifying patients and caregivers.
As of Feb. 19, Martin said the state had mailed 160 cards; another 88 have been approved but still needed to be printed and sent.
The distribution of the cards seemed to be “evenly dispersed,” Martin said, but DHHS has received more applications than anticipated in the northern part of the state. The northernmost dispensary is located in Plymouth — about an 80-minute drive from Berlin and a two-hour drive from Pittsburg.
Could New Hampshire patients buy marijuana next-door while they wait for it to become available here?
Setting aside the question raised in the attorney general’s appeal, the answer is: It depends where they’re going.
In Maine, as Horan demonstrated, out-of-state patients who are authorized to use medical marijuana by their home state can get medical marijuana. As long as they have documentation from their medical provider, photo identification and their certification from their home state, they’re treated the same as in-state patients.
Vermont and Massachusetts do not serve out-of-state patients, according to state websites and the Marijuana Policy Project. A bill introduced in Massachusetts last year would open up medical marijuana access to visiting patients, but it’s still in committee.
For more on neighboring states' licensed dispensary systems and their views toward visiting patients, check out the map below.