N.H. medical marijuana bill passed
Published: Thursday, April 30, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
The N.H. medical marijuana bill was approved by the Senate last Wednesday.
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate. After making some changes to the bill, the Senate approved HB 648 with a 14-10 margin. The revised bill will go back to the House of Representatives for approval, and Gov. Lynch will either approve or veto the bill.
"I think it's tragic in this country that we're not recognizing the way it's used - as medicine," said Rep. Trinka Russell of Rockingham County. She co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Evalyn Merrick of Coos County, who is a cancer patient. Students and faculty weighed in on the bill, before it was passed, in the MUB Monday night. The UNH Chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy hosted "Waiting to Inhale," a documentary film on the movement to legalize medical marijuana in America.
Together with Matt Simon, the executive director of N.H. Coalition for Sensible Marijuana Policy, the film showing attracted almost 100 students to the MUB Theatre on Monday night. SSDP hoped to gain support for the bill that would make medical marijuana legal for severely ill patients.
The documentary took the audience inside the lives of activists, severely ill patients and doctors fighting for the medical marijuana movement.
Russell told the audience that although she voted against the medical marijuana bill two years ago, she has come to support the bill after seeing Merrick's cancer struggle.
Russell also pointed out that unlike previous medical marijuana bills in New Hampshire, the bill is very narrow in defining the portion of the population who can use the drug and the way the it would be distributed.
"We wanted to make sure it's about medicine," said Russell, "between the patient, the caregiver, and the physician."
If passed, the bill states that medical marijuana will be legal for patients suffering from "severe pain that has not responded to previously prescribed medication or surgical measures for more than three months, severe nausea, severe vomiting, seizures, or severe, persistent muscle spasms."
The bill also states that debilitating conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis are subject to treatment by medical marijuana.
Some students were surprised at the number of medical uses for marijuana.
Emily Carlson, 19, knew that it helped relieve nausea and anxiety but was surprised that it also helps suppress more intense symptoms, such as seizures.
Simon said that he has met many patients who have experienced dramatic weight loss or have difficulty getting up in the morning because of chronic pain.
"It's an important step that I think we should all care about," said Simon in regards to seeing marijuana as potential medicine for seriously ill patients.
Russell pointed out that in contrast to medical marijuana, many conventional drugs used to treat severe conditions can be highly addictive and have more serious side effects than marijuana. Also, traditional medications don't always relieve the severe symptoms of those suffering from serious disease.
"There are people who have chronic pain and illness who also have nausea on top of that," Russell told the audience. Supplementing or replacing conventional narcotics with marijuana can enable the patient to regain energy and spend more time with family, she said.
Some patients have used marijuana even though it is currently illegal.
For patients like Clayton Holton, 23, using marijuana means putting fewer pain-killing narcotics in his system. Holton, who suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), has used marijuana as a substitute for Vicodin, as well as Oxycontin.
Simon said that for someone who has to take Morphine or Oxycodone on daily basis, supplementing regular narcotics with marijuana could have a significant improvement.
Replacing narcotics with marijuana would help patients avoid the debilitating side effects of conventional medicine, and allow patients to regain mobility and energy, said Simon. He said that patients using marijuana for that purpose should not be seen as criminals.
"They're doing it out of need," said Simon. "To salvage some quality of life."
"Waiting to Inhale" also surprised some students by showing severely ill patients being arrested for using or growing marijuana to treat their symptoms.
"I was surprised how much the federal government spends on incarcerating these people for something so useful and so powerful," said UNH student Garret Bauer, 20.
Connor Quimby, 21, who created the UNH Chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said that he was pleased with the increased support and awareness among students on this issue. Several students said that they might write a letter or call Gov. Lynch to support the bill.
According to Quimby, those opposing the bill have misconceptions of what the bill is about.
"They think it's a disguise for legalizing pot," said Quimby. "That's completely what it's not about."
He said that although many of those who support legalizing marijuana may also support HB 648, but those who are supporting the bill aren't doing it to make marijuana legal.
"It will only be for the most sick individuals, the way it's structured now," said Quimby.
Quimby said that he had witnessed similar misconceptions when he created the UNH chapter for SSDP.
"[Some people] think that we're a bunch of college kids trying to legalize drugs," said Quimby.
The organization's goal is to make the use of drugs a medical issue, rather than recreational.
Quimby believes the current "War on Drugs" doesn't work, and that people should realize that there will always be "people using drugs, and we can't deal with it as a judicial issue."
Quimby is happy to work with N.H. Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy in order to seek justice for patients who truly need marijuana for medical purposes, he said.
"Our generation is for the most part less active in political matters as previous generations have been," said Quimby.