The New Hampshire state Senate approved a bill on Thursday that would allow medical marijuana patients to cultivate cannabis at home. The measure, House Bill 364, was approved by a vote of 14-10. Under the measure, patients registered in the state’s medical marijuana program would be allowed to possess up to three mature cannabis plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings.
The 7,000 registered medical marijuana patients in New Hampshire are currently restricted to obtaining cannabis from one of four Alternative Treatment Centers, driving up the price and causing some patients to turn to dangerous options instead, according to Democratic Sen. Tom Sherman.
“Therapeutic cannabis can be very expensive when sold at an Alternative Treatment Centers, and some patients have had to turn back to opioids as a cheaper option to ease their pain,” said Sherman during the debate for the bill on Thursday.
Bill Survives Opposition in Senate
But some senators, including Republican Sen. Sharon Carson, opposed the bill, believing there were not strong enough measures for control and enforcement. Some of those fears were allayed with a floor amendment that removed a provision that would have allowed a patient cultivating medical marijuana to gift cannabis to another registered patient.
Republican Sen. James Gray said last week that he is opposed to the bill.
“I think right now the places that we’ve authorized to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes – we have many many controls over that place, including walls, cameras, etc.,” Gray said. “And opening up to home grow just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. It’s still illegal federally.”
Activists Support More Options for Patients
Matt Simon, the New England political director for cannabis reform advocacy group the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release that passing the bill will give patients a new alternative to obtain their medicine.
“This critically important bill will make medical cannabis more accessible to qualifying patients in New Hampshire,” said Simon. “Medical cannabis is not covered by health insurance, and many patients are unable to afford the products that are available at dispensaries. For some, home cultivation is simply the best, most affordable option.”
This is the first time that home cultivation for medical marijuana patients has received support from the New Hampshire Senate. House Bill 364 now heads back to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, which approved an earlier version of the measure last month. If the House concurs with amendments to the bill made in the Senate and votes to approve the bill again, it will be sent to Gov. Chris Sununu for his consideration.
The bill is opposed by the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, whose members fear that home-cultivated medical marijuana will be diverted to unauthorized users, according to media reports.