Medical Marijuana: Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire Bills Advance

Medical marijuana supporters won committee votes this week in two states and a full House vote in one more. Legislative committees in Illinois and Minnesota advanced bills, while the New Hampshire House passed its bill.

In the Granite State, the New Hampshire House approved HB 648 which would allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill passed by a vote of 234-138. The vote marked the first time a medical marijuana measure had won in a floor vote in either New Hampshire chamber.

"This vote proves that House members have taken this debate seriously, listened carefully to the testimony of patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from terrible, debilitating conditions, and understand their duty as elected officials to provide for their needs with responsible, compassionate legislation," said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), co-sponsor of the bill. "Now it's up to my colleagues to do the same, and end the ongoing harassment of patients who have committed no crimes, and who only wish to be protected from arrest for using the proven, safe medicine their doctors recommend."

Now, the New Hampshire Senate needs to get to work. Matt Simon of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy is confident they will. "This vote shows New Hampshire is ready to protect patients by enacting a responsible medical marijuana law," he said. "Public opinion may soon become public policy," alluding to polls showing 71% support for it in the state.

That same day, the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee passed SB 1381 on Wednesday. A companion bill, HB 2514, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee March 4.

Sponsored by a former three-term state's attorney, Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), the bill would allow seriously ill patients with specified debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana without fear of arrest provided they have a doctor's recommendation. The favorable committee votes clear the way for possible floor votes in both houses, a first in Illinois.

"This is an important step for suffering Illinoisans who rely on medical cannabis because they, in consultation with their doctors, have determined it is the best treatment available to them," Haine said. "I'm grateful to my colleagues in the public health committee who listened to science and reason today and made the sensible, compassionate decision to pass this bill."

One day earlier, the Minnesota House Public Safety and Oversight Committee advanced that state's medical marijuana bill, HF 292, but only after amending it. The bill passed the committee on a 9-6 vote after it was altered so that it must be reapproved in two years and so it would be more difficult for patients to grow their own medicine.

State law enforcement testified in opposition to the measure Tuesday and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty continues to vow to veto any such legislation that crosses his desk, but former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper told the committee that despite hearing similar plaints in Washington state, the sky had not fallen. He suggested that police should leave doctoring to the doctors.

"The police, as important as our voice is in the conversation in the dialog about drug policy, are not physicians, are not care givers," Stamper said. "And that it is inappropriate for the police to substitute our judgment for that of physicians and those in need of the care of physicians."

The Minnesota bill is advancing in both houses, having now survived six different committee votes. It remains to be seen whether it will get floor votes in both chambers, and whether it will pass with enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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