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Nov 20, 2014 4:20 PM

Kevin Landrigan: Medical marijuana takes a big step in NH but hurdles remain


CONCORD - Bulletin for those suffering with chronic pain that only medical marijuana can relieve.

Help is on the way.

A joint legislative panel unanimously approved rules 17 months after Governor Maggie Hassan made New Hampshire join 22 other states legalizing eligible patients to buy and use pot.

Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy project says some of them are literally dying in wait.

"The concern continues to be that patients are still criminals in New Hampshire if they decide to use marijuana with their doctor's recommendation and we're eager to finally see the day when that changes,'' said Matt Simon, state director of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Deputy City Manager Carlos Baia said the interest in selling it is there.

``Our office has had about a half dozen calls from people looking at property in Concord for an alternative treatment center,'' Baia said.

Now state officials are racing against time trying to meet the law's first licensing deadline.

``We are happy to see things moving forward; obviously the clock is ticking, this entire program hinges on getting a dispensary up and running,'' Simon said.
State officials broke the state down into four regions where one center each would equally serve the state.

State Senator John Reagan, one of the godfathers of this campaign, said it didn't come soon enough for Clayton Houlton whose testimony brought lawmakers to tears.

"This summer I went to the memorial service for Clayton Houlton who starved to death for lack of access to cannabis,'' Reagan said.

State law allows for up to four treatment centers but mandates there be at least two.

To pay for the cost of regulation, Health and Human Services Senior Division Director Mary Castelli said the state needs there to be three to operate.

Simon said another concern was the license fee; the $80,000 charge is the highest of any state in the country.

"We don't know how many patients there are going to be and therefore whether that kind of fee is going to make it unaffordable to operate a center,'' Simon said.

Castelli said each center must be a non-profit but have to prove it's a "charitable organization'' to qualify as being exempt from local property taxes.

State Rep. Richard Ladd, R-Haverhill, said it's not fair for cities and towns not to get tax revenue from this new business.

"I'm very concerned about the downshifting that could occur to communities,'' said Ladd who nonetheless voted for the rules.

Reagan said he'll author legislation for the 2015 session to permit these centers to open satellite so there are enough locations close enough for patients to visit.

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