A bill to legalize recreational cannabis for adults in New Hampshire has advanced in the state’s House of Representatives. Narrowly approved by the House committee of Criminal Justice and Public Safety in a vote of 10 to 9, House Bill 481 now advances to the states’s full House of Representatives for consideration.
The main sponsor of House Bill 481, Rep. Renny Cushing, is also the chairman of the House Criminal Justice committee.
“It was a historic vote,” said Rep. Renny Cushing in an interview with NHPR. “For the first time in history the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted to recommend that we put an end to the prohibition of cannabis and enact a law to provide for the legalization, regulation and taxation.”
The legislation aims to legalize the possesion and use of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older for recreational purposes. It also establishes a framework for regulating and taxing a commercial cannabis market through licensing manufacturers and dispensaries. A cannabis control commission would be selected, and members would be responsible for regulating and licensing the commercial market.
The bill dictates that every one ounce of dried cannabis flowers sold by a state-licensed dispensary would be taxed $30. Consuming cannabis in public would remain illegal, and those caught for the first time would be fined up to $100.
If House Bill 481 were to become law, any adult 21 and older would also be permitted to cultivate up to six mature plants at home at one time. The number of plants per household would increase to 12 if multiple adults reside in one home.
Never before recommended by a committie, similar legislation has not made it this far in the New Hampshire House before. The close vote by the committee may foreshadow how the vote will go when it is considered by the full New Hampshire House of Representatives. If it miraculously reaches his desk, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has reportedly said that he would not sign the bill into law.
Nearly three years after voting to legalize medical cannabis, New Hampshire’s first medical marijuana dispensary finally began serving patients.
Over the weekend, the Sanctuary Alternative Treatment Center in Plymouth, New Hampshire finally awarded dozens of patients who anxiously waited the medical cannabis dispensary’s opening. This newly opened dispensary says it already has 150 registered patients with another 800 awaiting approval.
Those patients will have plenty of options to choose from as the dispensary’s grow operation includes over 50 strains of cannabis priced at about $400 an ounce. Patients can purchase up to two ounces or 56 grams of marijuana once every 10 days.
New Hampshire’s legislation legalized medical marijuana in July of 2013, but the regulatory and licensing process for dispensaries took nearly three full years to iron itself out and come to fruition. With New Hampshire’s medical marijuana industry officially underway, the East Coast is nearly painted completely green with medical marijuana states.
With Pennsylvania recently legalizing medical marijuana, every state north of Virginia now has medical marijuana laws in place. Along with Pennsylvania and Hawaii (which recently handed out its dispensary licenses), Maryland is one of the few 24 medical marijuana states not to have a dispensary system yet in place.
That should change within the next 18 months as Maryland is currently licensing dispensaries and setting up its own regulatory system.
Patients who register with their state’s medical cannabis program typically become, literally, card carrying members. What many do not realize is that some states recognize the registrations of those from outside areas, something that is called reciprocity. While most states do not recognize out-of-state medical cannabis exemptions or qualifications, a few do. Of these, there are important differences of which millions of traveling patients should be aware.
The medical cannabis laws of most states do not allow reciprocity for one simple reason: It invites scrutiny by federal authorities, specifically those in the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA. The Justice Department is home to the DEA and exercises oversight for interstate commerce. It therefore has a vested concern to ensure that diversion (legal cannabis being delivered to illegal recipients) and other fraudulent activity is not involved. The issue becomes only more complex based on the fact that medical, and even recreational, cannabis is legal in some states, but all forms of cannabis are illegal at the federal level.
The federal government categorizes cannabis as Schedule I, meaning it is officially as “dangerous and addictive” as heroin and bath salts. In fact, both cocaine and methamphetamines, two truly addictive drugs that nearly any medical professional will testify are more dangerous than cannabis, both reside in less-restrictive Schedule II; they can even be prescribed by a physician.
Possession vs. Purchase
Four states with medical cannabis laws on the books allow visitors to legally possess and consume cannabis (within limits), but do not provide safe access via dispensaries to the medicine or related products (like concentrates, edibles, tinctures, and topicals).
States allowing registered patients from out-of-state to possess cannabis include:
- New Hampshire: Visiting patients are permitted to possess and consume cannabis, but cannot purchase or grow the herb.
- Arizona: Card-carrying patients from other states are permitted to possess and use cannabis, but not purchase it.
- Michigan: Visiting patients may possess and use. If driving with cannabis, the herb must be stored in a case in a locked trunk of the vehicle.
- Rhode Island: Like similar states, visiting qualifying patients may use and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, but cannot purchase from dispensaries in the state.
There are three states that practice full reciprocity and will legally allow, under certain circumstances, out-of-state patients to make purchases at licensed dispensaries. This is a way for those suffering a debilitating disease or condition, especially those who must medicate daily, to obtain medicine when they are traveling. It is not recommended that patients attempt to carry cannabis through an airport or on a flight. While many are successful, the legal ramifications in some states — or from federal authorities — simply are not worth the risk for the average patient.
It is legal for any patient possessing a valid medical cannabis card, from any state, to purchase, possess, and consume cannabis products at Nevada dispensaries. In fact, because reciprocity is practiced by so few states in the U.S., Nevada may become a destination for patients in other states who wish to vacation or meet business clients, but don’t desire to — or simply can’t — go without their medicine for the duration of their travel.
In Nevada, reciprocity is fairly straightforward. At their first dispensary visit, patients from out-of-state are asked to sign an affidavit testifying that they are currently a valid patient in another state. In addition, traveling patients are restricted to that initial dispensary for one month. Because most travelers, especially those vacationing in Las Vegas, will be staying a considerably shorter period of time than a month (a two to seven day span is more common), they are limited to a single dispensary for that particular trip. Las Vegas is significant, especially considering that 40 million people travel there each year (that’s the entire population of California, the most populous state in the nation).
Thus, patients visiting Las Vegas or Reno should be careful when selecting their initial dispensary. If their next trip to the Silver State is more than 30 days in the future, they will then be able to shop at the dispensary of their choice. Some have pondered if Nevada will pass recreational legalization via a ballot initiative in November 2016. If it does, Las Vegas could become the Amsterdam of the United States, being America’s legal adult playground for more than merely gambling and big-dollar magic acts.
The fact that Nevada is risking federal scrutiny to do what is best for patients is both relatively novel among states that have enacted medical cannabis laws, but also within the theme of Nevada’s tourism. If there are three states that understand the economic and cultural benefits of a robust tourism industry, it is Nevada, Colorado, and California. This spirit is finally being expressed within state laws affecting medical cannabis patients.
In Hawaii, patients from the mainland must simply register with the state. None of the details of this program are available, however, due to the fact that it will not go into effect until January 1, 2018. Patients traveling to this classic vacation destination of perfect temperatures and gorgeous beaches must remain patient for their opportunity to spend a few days in paradise while also remaining medicated to reduce or eliminate pain and nausea or deliver relief from inflammation-based diseases such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and even cancer.
Maine requires that the recommending physician of visiting patients submit a form that testifies to the patient’s condition and eligibility in their home state. Visiting patients may designate a caregiver or dispensary in Maine, but not both. Surprisingly — in what seems to be an effort to accommodate those who relocate to Maine, not just visitors or vacationers — patients can have their doctor petition for their right to cultivate up to six mature plants.
Thus, patients who qualify for their home state’s medical cannabis program may visit or move to Maine and immediately request, via their recommending doctor, legal permission to consume and even cultivate cannabis.
Federal legality would eliminate the need for states to practice reciprocity in their recognition of registered medical cannabis patients from fellow states. However, this isn’t something that is on the political horizon in Washington, D.C. and a popular topic in Congress. Until true progress is made on Capitol Hill, patients will have to rely upon the handful of states that officially recognize the programs of those outside their own borders.
Three New Hampshire companies have been selected, from a group of 14 applicants, to operate four medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the Granite State.
On Tuesday, June 9, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that Temescal Wellness, Inc., Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of New Hampshire, and Sanctuary ATC will become the three companies licensed during the post-selection registration period.
John Martin, the Manager of DHHS Bureau of Licensing and Certification, reported that it took a very long time to select the companies. This was a time consuming process because some applications were longer than 1,000 pages.
Although the exact locations of each dispensary has not been decided, they will be placed in four different geographic regions around New Hampshire. A public input process, as well as local approval of the dispensaries, will be necessary.
Dr. Gary Woods (photo below), a retired orthopedic surgeon who serves on the board of directors for Temescal Wellness, said that it has been and will continue to be a thorough process for selecting companies and locations.
Dispensaries will now seek out local approvals and organizing their operations. Woods explained why this slow process will be worth the wait:
“The people who formulated this company are experts in the field, absolutely. I think we’ve had a lot of emotional discussion, but we’re trying to transition that just from the emotional component to a real scientific basis to see what is good and if necessary what is bad as well. I think it’s going to be done right, instead of just having it out in the open to begin with. Let’s find out how it works for these medical entities that have been identified.”
According to DHHS, each treatment center must have their registration application submitted by August 27. Following application entry, it will be inspected for compliance. Once approved, the company will be able to begin cultivating medical marijuana.
DHHS plans to begin issuing patients registry identification cards approximately six weeks prior to treatment centers opening for sales.
With dispensaries just beginning to get local approvals and setting up operations, DHHS officials believe that it will take eight to nine months before they will be open for business.
Although it will take some time, John Martin is excited about the recent steps towards medical legalization:
“Today, we reached a huge milestone in the therapeutic cannabis program.”
The DHHS website will post an announcement once they are ready to accept patient and caregivers applications.
Support for legalizing recreational marijuana in New Hampshire is steadily on the rise. According to a recent WMUR Granite State Poll, 59 percent of adults in New Hampshire support legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption, while only 35 percent oppose legalization. Relative to the same poll a year ago, there is an 8% increase in support for legalization and up 11% from February 2013.
The poll was structured in a two question format. The first questions was the standard “yes or no should marijuana be legalized,” while the second question asked participants their preferred regulation method with multiple choice options as potential answers. The results revealed 52% of total participants preferred to see marijuana regulated and taxed in a system similar to alcohol, while 27% support the state’s current laws for marijuana use.
Despite New Hampshire’s small size, the state plays a pivotal role in all presidential elections. Geographically, New Hampshire is faced with surrounding states (Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts) pushing for active change to existing bills, changing the social schema in the region.
Photo Credit: 420College.org