Concord, New Hampshire- While the state of New Hampshire continues to deal with delays in its implementation of a medical marijuana program approved in 2013, a Merrimack County Superior judge has ruled in favor of a woman suffering from late-stage lung cancer seeking access to a medical marijuana card.
Linda Horan, an Alstead resident suffering from stage 4 lung cancer, is seeking to obtain marijuana in the neighboring state of Maine because New Hampshire has yet to open any marijuana dispensaries despite approving a medical marijuana program. The Maine Medical Marijuana Act was passed in 1999 and the program was further expanded by voters in 2009.
New Hampshire, a state governed by Democrats for over a decade, appears to be experiencing much more difficulty approving and implementing medical marijuana than its neighboring states. While Democrat Governor Maggie Hassan signed a limited medical marijuana program into law in 2013, the program becoming a reality for patients in New Hampshire has been a lengthy process. Patients are continuing to wait for access as the state’s Department of Health and Human Services has just begun accepting applications for cards. No cards will be issued until dispensaries are opened, which is not expected to happen until early next year.
The Marijuana Policy Project provided an overview pointing to certain actions taken by the state which have led to delays, including the attorney general’s office “postponing its implementation of the patient registry process” in 2014.
In addition, rather than appointing “a member of the public” and “a qualifying patient” to an advisory council tasked with overseeing the law’s implementation, MPP noted that Gov. Hassan appointed Tuftonboro Police Chief Andrew Shagoury, as well as a patient described by MPP as “completely unknown to the patients who had supported the bill” who has not attended any meetings. On the council, Chief Shagoury represents the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, an organization which has been a longtime and vocal opponent of medical marijuana legalization.
Before filing the lawsuit, Horan addressed Gov. Hassan during a NH AFL-CIO lifetime achievement award speech, asking the governor in an emotional plea to open dispensaries “not just for me, but for all the other sick people in this state.”
Shortly after Horan filed her lawsuit, MPP’s New England Political Director Matt Simon told Truth In Media that “the fact that a terminal cancer patient like Linda Horan still can’t be protected from arrest in New Hampshire is appalling and downright insane.”
Simon noted that “Governor Hassan signed the law creating this program on July 23, 2013, but somehow, patients today are still criminals if they choose to use marijuana as a substitute for prescription painkillers. This lawsuit shouldn’t even be necessary, but patients all over New Hampshire will be watching closely and hoping for a successful result.“
Horan showed frustration over the fact that New Hampshire has had multiple delays in providing patients with access to medical marijuana. “The state simply needs to issue me an ID card so that I can access the medicine that I need,” said Horan, according to the Union Leader. “It’s hard to imagine why it would take more than two years for that. There are seriously ill people throughout New Hampshire who are suffering every day they go without it.”
“I want the state to stop dragging your feet over a technicality when you’re dealing with sick people,” she was also quoted as saying. “We don’t have the time to fool around.”
Although Horan had expressed urgency in seeking medical marijuana and has been given a few months to live, state officials argued against the lawsuit.
Earlier this month, Gov. Hassan argued in a statement that “the law that we have put in place- as approved by the legislature- requires ID cards to contain the ‘registry identification number corresponding with the alternative treatment center (dispensary) the qualifying patient designated,’ which prevents the issuance of these cards until the ATCs are open.”
The Concord Monitor reported that “state officials, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, have maintained patients could not get ID cards until dispensaries, or Alternative Treatment Centers, in the state are open, which is expected to happen early next year.”
Judge Richard McNamara disagreed with the state’s argument. “Nowhere does the statute say that a qualifying patient can only obtain cannabis from a New Hampshire ATC,” wrote McNamara.
Hassan did not provide comments after McNamara’s ruling. Horan is expected to receive a card on Wednesday.
Ben Swann released a Truth In Media episode in 2014 which exposed the government’s hypocrisy in publicly treating marijuana as a health hazard while it holds two patents on cannabis for medical use.