Patients, providers and the public have come together to update laws – and thinking – related to medical marijuana
Freedom Representative Jerry Knirk recently sent a press release to his 399 colleagues at State House asking them to publicize what the Therapeutic Cannabis Medical Oversight Board called a listening session.
The goal of the session? Through a coordinated, open-ended question-and-answer forum, review cannabis policies in Granite State, which legalized medical marijuana eight years ago.
Patients say they enjoy the long-awaited compassion. But were obstacles.
“I had a sort of nasty response,” Knirk told Zoom to attendees, “that cannabis is a terrible life-destroying thing.” He was unwilling to reveal the name of the lawmaker who contacted him directly, but you can bet that the 20 or so people who exchanged ideas and concerns on Wednesday night strongly disagreed with the words of this answer.
The two-hour meeting – officially held at the Department of Health and Human Services – had a large audience via Zoom which included patients, caregivers, providers and members of the public.
Patients want to grow their own pot, and several other patients have complained that the list of illnesses needed to qualify for a card here is too short, ignoring conditions like anxiety, insomnia, and depression. These diseases give you a medical card in the surrounding states.
Not here, however.
âHeadaches are not on the app,â said Nashua Rep. Suzanne Vail. âI would love to see what we can do to reduce the stigma as we work through this legislative process on the bills that we have in there. We have room to really do good things.
People like Nadine Hottat of Peterborough, an advanced practice registered nurse, have seen the reactions of patients after telling them the bad news.
âI have met patients who have gone into a state where anxiety is a qualifying condition,â Hottat said. âAnd they have used cannabis successfully to relieve anxiety and depression. I have to tell them that I cannot qualify you for anxiety, and it is quite a disturbing experience.
One participant, a bearded man identified only as Caleb, said New Hampshire was considered “uncool” in New England, both for limiting the number of diseases admissible to the use of marijuana for the purposes of medical and for its curious ban on patients who grow pot. Medicine, patients call it. The drugs they desperately need.
âWe need the ability to produce our own medicine,â Caleb said. âI’ve heard that the majority of the problems with this program could be solved through home cultivation. It’s that simple. ”
Self-cultivation is cheaper. Many staff at New Hampshire’s first seven Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) legally smoke pot themselves, for pain management and comfort.
They sympathize with patients who are not mobile. They say there are plenty of clients to shop around, that patients should have the choice of buying from an ATC or cultivating at home, if they can master this complex process.
For people with cancer and so many other illnesses, a home supply would be turned off in an emergency, to soothe pain, clear nausea, stimulate appetite, or induce sleep.
Compare these archaic laws, say supporters, to those of Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. You can grow it legally if your disease is on the list. A larger list than that of New Hampshire.
In fact, adults can smoke there legally, sick or not. But that’s a debate – legalization – for another day.
Right now, advocates of the pot’s perks continue to rock the walls of the State House, hoping the Granite State will embrace the mindset of its neighbors.
Even Matt Simon thinks patients should be allowed to cultivate theirs, and he’s the director of public and government relations for the Prime Alternative Treatment Centers in New Hampshire.
He promotes the Chichester dispensary and another in Merrimack, among the seven in total in the state.
It’s now part of the state’s legal distribution system, offering what it says are great products and hoping sales will be sustained. But its roots are elsewhere, deep like those of a potted plant, uplifting it in a visible role in the struggle to rewrite the laws of the pot here.
He began speaking out in 2009, four years before Governor Maggie Hassan finally signed the bill legalizing medical marijuana. He lobbied the House for change.
Ask him for feedback on his seemingly conflicting roles – promoting his ATC outlets, while also upholding the value of home growth – and Simon takes a hard line to one side, without hesitation.
âDoes this help our results? ” He asked. âOkay, but we’re in the service of patients and we’re a non-profit organization. (Local producers) should be able to do it, and if they can do it better than us, go for it.
The laws in place, Simon noted, are archaic and draconian, the penalties too heavy for sick people seeking relief in their homes.
He’s seen patients move to other states unhappy with the policies here. They sent him pictures of their new gardens. They said they finally felt free, explaining the joy to an individual who lives in the “Live Free or Die” state.
âWhen it comes to therapeutic clinics, the mission is to serve the patients,â says Simon, âand these patients are not served well by criminal penalties. Patients who have to live in fear of law enforcement have played a fundamental role in this problem, and it should never be a crime for patients trying to take care of their medical needs. ”
Simon saw it all, the arduous process by which New Hampshire tried to align with its neighbors in New England and other states across the country.
Past and current governors John Lynch and later Chris Sununu have vetoed legislation that would have legalized home growing. Elsewhere, the Senate either killed the bill or, in 2009 and 2013, used an amendment to remove the local clause, even before the bill reached the governor’s office.
Is a relaxed system approaching? One that allows residents to grow their own medicinal pot, or expands the list of eligible diseases, or – wait, legalizes personal use by adults in the comfort of their own homes?
Representatives from the state’s three alternative treatment centers testified in favor of HB 350 – which makes home cultivation legal – last spring. Bedford Police Chief John Bryfonski disapproved of the measure, and the measure was tabled in the Senate by 15 to 9 votes, essentially removing it from consideration.
Pot people argue that some ideas are outdated, that old propaganda delivered by films such as the cult classic “Reefer Madness” seems silly today, with its portrayal of pot smokers going crazy, killing and hallucinating.
In fact, the 1936 film, so serious and crazy in its presentation of the effects of pot on users, is nowadays a satirical backlash for individuals who still fear the long-term impact of pot on people. .
âThe specter of Reefer Madness is still here,â Knirk said. âSo we will take this issue to heart. ”
As to the response he received from a House member, one who said the pot “destroys life,” Knirk declined to name a name, saying: “It was a private email for me.”
Instead, Knirk remembered his thoughts as he read the message, thinking to himself, âWe’re talking about therapeutic cannabis.”
âI tried to educate this particular person,â Knirk said. âI’m not sure I was successful. He never answered.