My wife Cindy has been battling breast cancer for more than 20 years. She is currently undergoing treatments that keep her cancer at bay, but the treatments cause her to feel constantly sick, and anti-nausea drugs just haven't helped.
Desperate for relief, she tried medical marijuana, and it made a big difference. Unfortunately, we have no legal way of obtaining it. That's why I co-sponsored HB-573, which would allow cultivation of up to three plants for each qualifying patient and also for the creation of five state-regulated alternative treatment centers.
The home cultivation provision is essential for three reasons. First, patients in Cindy's situation can't afford to wait two or more years for the centers to open. Second, when the centers finally do open, their products will be more expensive than many patients can afford, on top of all their other medical bills. Finally, it is irrational to make medical marijuana legal for patients who are suffering, yet maintain felony penalties against patients who grow a few plants for themselves!
Patients like Cindy need access to medical marijuana now, and all we're asking for is to be protected from arrest if we choose to grow a few plants — just as patients in Vermont, Maine, and many other states are protected.
Is this really too much to ask in the "Live Free or Die" state? The House didn't think so — my colleagues and I passed the bill 286-64 with overwhelming bipartisan support, and last year 10 Republican senators voted for a bill allowing limited cultivation. Unfortunately, Gov. Hassan has now told senators they need to remove the home cultivation provision from HB-573 if they want the bill to become law.
This is crushing news for patients like Cindy who need relief today, not years down the road. To add insult to injury, in 2009, Gov. Hassan voted for a bill (HB-648) that would have allowed patients to cultivate up to six plants — twice as many as would be allowed under HB-573 and with fewer restrictions! Why would she change her position and turn a blind eye to the immediate needs of patients now that she is governor?
Sadly, we know the answer to this question. The only group that has been lobbying to remove the home cultivation provision is the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association. Enfield Chief Richard Crate and a few of his fellow chiefs have been fighting this bill for years. Their desire to maintain criminal penalties against seriously ill patients is cruel, heartless, and just plain wrong.
We are all raised to respect the police, and I share that respect, but in this case it is clear that a small number of police chiefs have crossed the line in lobbying against this compassionate provision.
Gov. Hassan needs to end this nightmare for patients, and the only way to do so is for her to reconsider and find a way to compromise with patients on home cultivation. Most of all, she needs to understand that the needs of seriously ill patients are more important than the preferences of a few vocal police chiefs.
The sponsors of HB-573 remain willing to agree to any reasonable compromise, and we very strongly urge Gov. Hassan to work with us on a solution that will serve the needs of patients in the immediate future.
Again, all we are asking for is compassion and a small measure of protection under New Hampshire law!
Rep. Ted Wright