It’s official, the United States now has a “Green Belt.”
New Hampshire became the 19th state in the United States- and the last one in New England- to legalize medical cannabis. On Tuesday N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed the law, which state lawmakers passed in June, that will allow people to open cannabis care centers to distribute medical cannabis to patients who qualify.
The new law states that in order to qualify to receive medical cannabis, a patient must either have a “chronic or terminal diseases” or “debilitating medical conditions.”
“The New Hampshire Medical Society worked with the House subcommittee very closely on the definitions and eligibility requirements,” the legislation’s key sponsor, Donna Schlachman told the Nashua Telegraph. “They are one of the strong reasons the law said ‘and’ instead of ‘or’. They were concerned with it being too wide open.”
Dr. Travis Harker, president of the New Hampshire Medical Society, was pleased with the strict guidelines.
“We tried to help limit the scope to what we thought would be a safe and appropriate group, and limit the number of diagnoses eligible,” he told the Nashua Telegraph.
The law includes the addition of spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries as qualifying conditions; however, PTSD and a chronic pain condition called RSD were not included.
“Allowing doctors to provide relief to patients through the use of appropriately regulated and dispensed medical marijuana is the compassionate and right policy for the state of New Hampshire, and this legislation ensures that we approach this policy in the right way with measures to prevent abuse,” Hassan said.
The way the law is worded, it will takes years for it to fully be implemented, but cannabis reform groups praised Hassan for signing the legislation.
“This legislation is long overdue and comes as a relief to the many seriously ill patients throughout New Hampshire who will benefit from safe access to medical marijuana,” said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Those suffering from debilitating conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis deserve legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana.”
The law does not allow patients to grow their own medical cannabis.
“It’s baby steps,” Schlachman said. “We’re getting something going, making sure it works. I expect we’ll go back and tweak things over time.”
New Hampshire has some of the strictest cannabis laws on the books and several attempts to reform the state’s cannabis by lawmakers have been unsuccessful in the last few years.
Now that New Hampshire has a medical cannabis law on the books they join the rest of New England who now all have legalized medical cannabis.
Maine passed a medical cannabis law in 1999, followed by Vermont in 2004. Rhode Island was next in 2006, followed by Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2012.
Nineteen states including the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis.