CONCORD, N.H. (Feb. 1, 2017) – New Hampshire will have several opportunities to expand its medical marijuana program, as six bills are currently active in the Live Free or Die State this year. If passed, these measures would further thwart the federal prohibition on cannabis in practice.
Rep. Eric Schleien (R-Hillsborough) introduced House Bill 157 (HB157), House Bill 158 (HB158), House Bill 159 (HB159) and House Bill 160 (HB160) while Rep. Robert Renny Cushing (D-Rockingham) introduced House Bill 197 (HB197) and Rep. Brian Stone (R-Rockingham) introduced House Bill 222 (HB222). Each of these bills would relax medical marijuana laws in the state to varying degrees.
HB222 is the most comprehensive of all the medical marijuana bills currently active for the 2017 legislative session. It would permit patients to access medical marijuana if they are suffering from “intractable or chronic pain” as well as “weakness impairing strength or ability, or symptoms progressing to such an extent as daily life activities are substantially limited; or post-traumatic stress disorder as diagnosed by a qualified physician; or opioid addiction or dependency as diagnosed by a qualified physician.”
The other bills were released containing many of the same elements of the more comprehensive legislation, only broken up into smaller parts. HB157 would make chronic pain a qualifying condition for patients to receive medical marijuana while HB158 would do the same with opioid addiction. HB159 would allow fibromyalgia patients to treat their condition with medical marijuana. HB160 would add post-traumatic stress disorder, and HB197 would add myelitis disorder or disease as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.
The New Hampshire legislature passed a law legalizing medical marijuana in 2013. The Department of Health and Human Services began pre-registering patients for medical marijuana ID cards in the fall of 2015, and the first dispensary opened last April. Allowing patients suffering from these four additional conditions to access medical marijuana would further accelerate the medicinal cannabis program in New Hampshire.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place.
Of course, the federal government lacks any lawful authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
While state law does not alter federal law, it takes a step toward blocking in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing state prohibition, New Hampshire essentially sweeps away part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states last year. Having already legalized medical marijuana to a certain extent, New Hampshire has many chances to relax their restrictions against cannabis even further in 2017.
With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
The expansion of the state’s medical marijuana law also demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. Once the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These six bills represents another step forward for patients seeking alternative treatments and a further erosion of deplorable federal marijuana prohibition.
HB157, HB158, HB159, HB160, HB197 and HB222 must receive committee assignments, and be approved by their respective committees before they can proceed to the full House for further consideration.