Tag Archives: Maggie Hassan

NH Governor Declares State Of Emergency Over “Spice” Overdoses

Concord, NH- Governor Maggie Hassan (D-Exeter) declared a state of emergency last Thursday in response to dozens of reported overdoses related to synthetic marijuana, often called “spice”.

The state of emergency will be in effect for 21 days unless an order is made to end the declaration early or to extend it. About 44 people have been reported to experience adverse reactions to the product; around half of those overdoses required hospitalization.

Spice is generally marketed as potpourri or incense on their packaging and often labeled “not for consumption”, but product users commonly smoke it, ingest it or brew it into tea because the products are sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids. The synthetic compounds have been claimed to mimic the effects of marijuana, but with more dangerous and intense reactions.

According to the press release, “The declaration of a State of Emergency triggers the Department of Health and Human Services public health powers under RSA 21-P:53 or any other applicable statute to investigate, isolate or quarantine and require the destruction of the commodity in question.”  The overdoses have mainly been reported in the Manchester area, and a few have been documented in Concord.

“These spice products can be treated with a variety of things, some of them are showing up with controlled substances that make them illegal, but we don’t know that that’s true for all of them,” said Hassan.

Although spice has been legal to sell, police and health officials are now searching for the “Smacked” brand of spice with a bubblegum label. The state of emergency declaration allows for the bubblegum “Smacked” spice to be pulled from store shelves. There are several other brands and flavors of spice, but “Smacked” is the brand that officials are claiming caused the overdoses.

Manchester Police Sgt. Brian O’Keefe said that Chief David Mara is discussing with city officials the possibility of a spice ban within Manchester.

Matt Simon, New England Political Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said “It’s very important for people to understand that these drugs are not ‘synthetic marijuana.’ That’s about as accurate as calling methamphetamine ‘synthetic coffee.’ If adults could legally choose to use marijuana, it’s hard to imagine that there would be much demand for these dangerous substitutes.”

“This is just another reason to end marijuana prohibition,” said Simon.

Police in New Hampshire cities including Nashua and Manchester are checking convenience stores and gas stations for the product. A store owner in Pelham was arrested on Friday and charged with two counts of felony drug sales for selling the substance. Three stores in Manchester have been shut down after police said those stores were selling the product.

New Hampshire Law Under Scrutiny After Massachusetts “Buffer Zone” Law Struck Down By Supreme Court

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that Massachusetts’s “buffer zone” law, which blocks protesters from demonstrating less than 35 feet from an abortion clinic, is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment.

The 35-foot buffer zone law passed in 2007, in response to two abortion clinic employees who were shot and killed outside of two Planned Parenthood centers in Brookline, MA in 1994. Advocates for the law claimed that reproductive health patients needed protection from harassment and potential violence from protesters.

The law was challenged by eight people including 77-year-old Eleanor McCullen, who is referred to in the case as a petitioner, one of many “individuals who attempt to engage women approaching Massachusetts abortion clinics in ‘sidewalk counseling’ which involves offering information about alterna­tives to abortion and help pursuing those options.” McCullen argued that the law violated her right to free speech.

The Supreme Court ruled that the zone included public sidewalks where free speech should be allowed to take place. “In short, traditional public fora are areas that have historically been open to the public for speech activities. Thus, even though the Act says nothing about speech on its face, there is no doubt—and respondents do not dis­pute—that it restricts access to traditional public fora and is therefore subject to First Amendment scrutiny,” read the ruling.

The ruling noted that the state of Massachusetts may consider several alternative options to protect clinic patients. The law still bans obstruction of abortion clinic entrances. “We will utilize all of the tools we have available to protect everyone from harassment, threats, and physical obstruction,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley.

The ruling has potential to affect other states where buffer zone laws are in place, including Colorado, Montana and New Hampshire. On June 10th of this year, Governor Maggie Hassan (D-NH) signed a 25-foot buffer zone into law despite the pending Massachusetts case.

SB319 states that “No person shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius up to 25 feet of any portion of an entrance, exit, or driveway of a reproductive health care facility.” The law provides exemptions for people passing through, employees of the clinics, and public employees such as police, ambulance and firefighters. The law takes effect July 10th.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) defends the New Hampshire law and said of the Massachusetts ruling that “We must be able to respect First Amendment rights while also protecting women at the same time, and I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision which will have an unnecessarily harmful impact on the safety of women seeking to receive legal reproductive healthcare.”

New Hampshire State Representative J.R. Hoell stated “The US Supreme Court’s unanimous decision today simply confirms what the HRA members believed when they fought against SB 319, that it infringes on freedom of speech. Governor Hassan’s signing of the bill must be either because she does not understand our constitutional rights, or has little regard for them. Free speech zones” that prohibit citizens from demonstrating or otherwise expressing their opinions in some locations are blatant affronts to our freedom of speech. Yes, it’s sometimes annoying, but democracy is messy and one person’s convenience is no reason to limit another’s right to speak out.”

“New Hampshire’s law is different than Massachusetts’, but we will closely review today’s decision to determine its impact, if any, on our state,” said Hassan in a statement.

“This is a victory for the right to free assembly and the right to free speech. This court unanimously put aside any political preferences on the issue of abortion and acknowledged this is simply a matter of the First Amendment–something Maggie Hassan refused to recognize in her zeal to protect abortion providers, which is one protection not covered in the Constitution,” said Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway in a statement about the ruling.

Scott Brown, who is currently campaigning for a United States Senate seat in New Hampshire, voted in 2000 to establish the buffer zones in Massachusetts after signing a letter urging that the vote be brought to the House floor. Brown then voted in 2007 to extend the buffer zone from 18 to 35 feet while serving in the Massachusetts legislature. It remains to be seen if those votes will come back to haunt him during his campaign.

Jim Rubens, also a candidate for US Senate in New Hampshire, released this statement: “Restricting peaceful speech and prayer in public spaces – even about controversial subjects like abortion –  is flagrantly unconstitutional.  I am happy that the court recognized this unanimously.”

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NH House Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

A marijuana decriminalization bill, sponsored by New Hampshire State Representative Adam Schroadter, passed 215-92 on March 12th. The bill, HB-1625, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a minor violation with a maximum fine of $100. Currently possession of any amount of marijuana in NH is punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $2,000.

This bill differs from the one passed by the NH House in January, in which marijuana would be sold at approved dispensaries with a tax of $30 per ounce. In that bill, residents would also be allowed to grow up to six plants at home.

New Hampshire remains the only New England state that has not passed marijuana decriminalization legislation. NH State Representative Keith Murphy has said that out of 2,800 marijuana arrests in 2010, nearly 90% of them were for simple possession.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (D) has expressed partial support of medical marijuana use by signing House Bill 573 into law, but this bill is very restrictive: she called for home cultivation to be stripped from the law,  limited qualifying conditions including the removal of PTSD, and required written permissions from landlords for tenants to use medicinal marijuana on their property. Many patients are frustrated with the length of time being taken to implement medical use; it’s estimated they will be able to use it in the summer of 2015 at the very earliest.

Hassan does not support recreational marijuana use; she has planned to veto January’s recreational marijuana bill, saying that “We have some challenges in our state when it comes to substance abuse. We need to be focusing on that, and I just think it’s the wrong message to send to young people.” She has not yet commented on the decriminalization bill.

Uncontested Republican candidate for NH Governor Andrew Hemingway responded to HB-1625,  “I applaud the House for taking this step. The idea that a young person with a small amount of marijuana can have his or her life ruined by jail time, by revocation of college acceptance, by a criminal record–is outrageous. The punishment should fit the crime and we are heading in the right direction with this issue. New Hampshire used common sense on this legislation and I look forward to its process moving ahead .”