A bill that would allow patients suffering from specified diseases and conditions to use marijuana for medicinal purposes passed the House Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday on a 13-7 vote. The bill is now headed for a House floor vote next week.
Medical marijuana came before the House in 2007, too. But after passing out of committee, it was defeated on a vote of 186-177.
Last time, the committee made a "do not pass" recommendation to the House as a whole. This time, proponents hope the "do pass" from the committee can take the measure over the top.
The bill, HB 648, would set up a registry for patients with qualifying diseases or conditions whose doctors certified that they would be helped by the herb. Patients or caregivers could grow six plants and possess up to two ounces of marijuana. They could also possess up to 12 seedlings. Plants would have to be grown in a secure facility indoors.
"This is truly a matter of compassion. People who are suffering, at least in our state of New Hampshire, ought not to be called criminals," said Rep. Roger Wells (R-Hampstead), one of two committee Republicans to vote for the bill.
If it passed the measure, the committee would be going against the advice of "national drug experts," warned Rep. Peter Batula (R-Merrimack). "There is no right way to do the wrong thing," he said.
"The committee studied the bill very diligently, and now it has placed its stamp of approval on a well-written, responsible bill," said Matt Simon, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which supports the bill. "It was a good day for democracy."
It will be a better day for democracy if Granite State legislators enact the bill and the governor signs it into law. More than 70% of New Hampshire voters support medical marijuana, according to a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll.