N.H. Senate Weighs Whether to Loosen State's Marijuana Laws

Apr 11, 2017

Several proposals to loosen New Hampshire’s regulations on the use of marijuana got hearings at the Statehouse Tuesday. 

Bills that were up for discussion included one that would allow people authorized to use medicinal marijuana to grow their own plants. Other proposals would add Post Dramatic Stress Disorder and Chronic Pain to the state’s qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use.

All these measures overwhelmingly passed the House last month and are now in the Senate.

At Tuesday’s public hearings, several people testified in support of these proposals, including many who gave personal stories of how marijuana has improved their symptoms. One woman said it has helped her with nightmares and breathlessness caused by being sexually assaulted. Others described how marijuana has allowed them to go back to work and even become better parents.

Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who's advocated for such measures in the past, told Senate lawmakers Tuesday that people battling such health issues, like those who testified, will self-medicate regardless of the laws.

“Do we want people who could qualify under this diagnosis to be protected from arrest, do we want them to have safe, legal access through dispensaries, or do we want them, if they do choose to use cannabis, to have to buy it from the illicit market?” Simon asked. Currently 23 states have PTSD on their list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

Rep. Jerry Knirk of Freedom, who's a retired spine surgeon, also testified in support of these measures, especially the proposal involving chronic pain. Knirk says research shows when it comes to chronic pain such as back pain, marijuana can be effective, even more so than opioids.

But the drug advocacy group New Futures opposed adding conditions to the state's medical marijuana policies, stressing that the state has yet to produce evidence that the program, which began in 2013, is working. 

The Senate is also considering a bill that would make up to an ounce of marijuana a violation rather than a crime. This passed the House 318 to 36 and Gov. Chris Sununu has said if it reaches his desk, he'll sign it. However, Sununu has said he does not support people being able to grow marijuana at home. Several New England states allow personal cultivation, such as Maine, starting in 1999.