For several years, people have been trying to get medical marijuana legalized in New Hampshire. Although opinion varies regarding the recreational use of cannabis, it appears that most New Hampshire citizens at least support making the drug legally available for medical users.
Marijuana is a drug that can be given to patients with a number of conditions including cancer, AIDS, and such neurological diseases as multiple sclerosis. While it is certainly not a "miracle" drug, it does have legitimate medical uses. It helps enhance the appetite and relieve the nausea of many chemotherapy patients. It can also help with muscular spasticity for MS patients. Moreover, it frequently gives patients with terminal and chronic conditions a better quality of life.
Many New Hampshire physicians would prescribe it to their patients it if were legal as is the case in a number of other states. Marijuana gives relief to a number of patients. Why should we ban it for people who have chronic or terminal illnesses if it makes them feel better? The old Puritan idea that pain and suffering is somehow good for your character seems a bit harsh.
The support for such a reform in our cannabis laws has been reflected in the state Legislature, including a session under Republican control and a session under Democratic control who have realized the need to legalize the drug for patients who need it. What stood in the way of a compassionate marijuana law have been two Democratic governors, Governor Lynch and Governor Hassan. Governor Lynch vetoed a bill to allow for medical pot and although it passed under Governor Hassan who supported it, it has been held up because of those who have put pressure on the state's executive branch. This has at least partially been the work of state law enforcement organizations.
The original idea was to allow patients (or a caregiver) to grow up to a certain number of marijuana plants for medical purposes. Now, Governor Hassan insists on only four legal dispensaries or outlets for the drug and these will not be up and going for at least another year. At this point, they are still reviewing the applications of those who will set up the dispensaries Nor have patients receive their cards. It seems likely that the recent cuts to the Department of Human Services will only delay the process.
One has to wonder: who will make a profit from these outlets? Meanwhile, medical marijuana patients have to choose between being lawbreakers and doing without the medicine that their doctors have advised.
One argument advanced by law enforcement officials is that if medical marijuana is legalized or even made easier to get, some of it will get through to the "recreational" pot market. They are probably right but there are a number of legal prescription drugs, including opiates, that make it to the recreational market and we do not ban those medicines for patients who need it.
And, America's most dangerous drugs, alcohol and tobacco, are completely legal and available "over the counter" as long as you are 18 (for tobacco) or 21 (for alcohol). No one would argue that at least some alcohol and tobacco does not reach our underage population but we do not completely ban those drugs!
Several years ago when this discussion started, I attended a debate on the issue. A representative of the N.H. Police Chiefs Association realized that maybe some patients needed cannabis but he said that such patients should "trust" our police officers to make "the right decision" when dealing with a medical marijuana patients and distinguishing between "medical" and "recreational" use. With all respect to law enforcement, the police and the courts should be subject to the law, not the individual whims of a police officer!
One has to wonder why law enforcement is so opposed to such reforms. Do they think it will result in less "business" for them?"
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, a taxpayer, a veteran, and a resident of Gilford)
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