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Vermont: Legislature First To Pass Marijuana Legalization Measure

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont's legislature has approved a bill that would legalize marijuana possession and small grows for adults and would create a Marijuana Regulation Commission that will draft legislation for a tax-and-regulate system.

The passage of this bill makes Vermont's legislature the first one to approve ending marijuana prohibition.

If Republican Governor Phil Scott signs the bill, adults 21 and over would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow up to two mature and four immature plants beginning on July 1, 2018.

“Vermont lawmakers made history today,” Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a report from The Hill. “The legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”

The measure was a compromise between the House -- who passed their own bill last week to legalize possession and small grows -- and the Senate, who passed a tax-and-regulate measure last week.

The Hill reported that the governor has not indicated whether he will sign the measure and has previously said cannabis legalization was not “a priority.”

New Hampshire: Legislature Takes One Step 'Sideways' On Marijuana Decriminalization

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Matt Simon, New England Political Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, released the following announcement regarding yesterday's failure to pass a bill to decriminalize marijuana in the state:

The prohibitionists in the New Hampshire Senate, led by gubernatorial candidate Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), succeeded yesterday in preventing any meaningful progress on decriminalization in 2016. The committee of conference on SB 498 removed House changes that would have decriminalized a quarter-ounce of marijuana. As was the case in the original Senate bill, the conference committee’s report would instead reclassify the penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana from a class A misdemeanor to an unspecified misdemeanor.

Union Leader reporter Garry Rayno accurately described this as a “sideways” step for marijuana policy reform. Police and courts will continue to waste time on low-level marijuana possession cases, and people who are caught with marijuana will continue being dragged through the criminal justice system. The small change made by SB 498 may end up having a small positive effect on marijuana policy, or it may have no practical effect at all.

Vermont: New TV Ads Say 'Vermont Is Ready' To Regulate Marijuana

New TV ads say "Vermont is Ready" to regulate marijuana

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana began airing a new television ad today, just as members of the Vermont House of Representatives are preparing to vote on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over.

The ad is titled "Vermont Is Ready" and is being aired in both thirty-second and 60-second versions. The ads can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/qicp4i.

The ad features a diverse group of Vermonters saying, “It’s time” to end marijuana prohibition and “Vermont is ready” to regulate marijuana for adult use. One woman says, “It’s time for marijuana sales to take place in regulated businesses,” and another says, “It’s time to stop punishing adults for using a less harmful substance than alcohol.” Dr. Joseph McSherry, a Richmond neurologist, says, “It’s time to create rules for testing and labeling marijuana so that consumers can know what they’re getting.”

The ad ends with a young woman urging viewers to contact their state representatives and ask them to support S. 241, which would end prohibition and regulate marijuana in Vermont.

The House Committee on Judiciary is expected to vote on S. 241 as early as Friday. The Senate approved the bill on February 25. Gov. Peter Shumlin, Attorney General William Sorrell, and two former attorneys general have expressed support for the measure.

New Hampshire: House Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday evening in a voice vote that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine. The measure will now be considered in the Senate.

HB 1631 would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

“This is commonsense marijuana policy reform,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It is irrational to brand people as criminals simply for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol.”

Nearly three out of four New Hampshire residents (72 percent) think the legislature should decriminalize marijuana possession or make it legal for adults, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released earlier this month. The full results are available at http://bit.ly/1Xdt8j9.

“New Hampshire citizens want the legislature to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy,” Simon said. “House members have done their part, and we hope their colleagues in the Senate will join them in supporting this measure.”

Vermont: Marijuana Legazation Bill Receives Final Senate Approval

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

In its final vote on the measure Thursday, the Vermont Senate approved (17-12) the bill that would legalize marijuana for adult use in the state. The bill, S.241, now goes before the House of Representatives who will begin working on it next week.

Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “We applaud the Senate for advancing this important legislation. Like most Vermonters, most members of the Senate recognize that prohibition is a failed policy. They voted to regulate marijuana because it will make our communities safer."

“We are confident that House members who take an objective look at the evidence will arrive at the same conclusion as their colleagues in the Senate,” Simon continued. “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society. We should be regulating it and controlling it, not forcing it into the underground market."

The bill would make possession of up to an ounce legal for adults over 21. Marijuana cultivation sites, retail stores, and testing facilities would be tightly regulated. It would not allow homegrown pot or edibles.

According to a poll released by Vermont Public Radio Monday, 55 percent of Vermont citizens support marijuana legalization for adult use.

Vermont: Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Proposal

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As full Senate prepares to vote on S. 241, a new VPR/Castleton poll finds 55% of Vermonters support passing such a law and only 32% are opposed

The Green Mountain State could become even greener. The Vermont Senate Committee on Appropriations on Monday approved a bill (4-3) that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate marijuana for adult use. It is now expected to receive a full Senate vote.

“The Senate has worked diligently and deliberately on this legislation,” said Matt Simon, the Montpelier-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Most Vermonters believe it’s time to end prohibition and regulate marijuana, and it appears most of their state senators agree. We are hopeful that the Senate will approve this commonsense legislation and send it over to the House for its consideration.”

S. 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores. It would also create a study commission to examine issues such as edible marijuana products and home cultivation, which would not be allowed under the bill.

It would remain illegal to consume marijuana in public or drive under the influence of marijuana. If approved, rulemaking would begin this summer, but the new law would not take effect until January 2018.

Vermont: Coalition To Regulate Marijuana To Launch TV Ad Campaign

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Campaign Features State’s Former Top Law Enforcement Official

A new television ad featuring Vermont’s former top law enforcement official speaking out in support of regulating marijuana will begin airing statewide on Tuesday, just as lawmakers are taking a close look at the issue.

The ad — viewable online at https://youtu.be/Fk45yWMjtRc — will appear on WCAX, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC through Sunday.

In the ad, titled “Time to End Prohibition (Again)”, former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney draws a comparison between current marijuana prohibition laws and the failed policy of alcohol prohibition.

“We all know that prohibition was a disaster,” Cheney says as images from the era of alcohol prohibition appear on the screen. “It forced alcohol into the underground market, where it was controlled by criminals, and consumers did not know what they were getting. It made us a nation of hypocrites and lawbreakers.

“Marijuana prohibition has caused a lot of the same problems,” according to Cheney. “That’s why most Vermonters agree it’s time for a more sensible approach,” he says, referencing a September Castleton Polling Institute poll that found 56 percent of Vermonters support — and only 34 percent oppose — legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use.

The ad ends with Cheney urging viewers to contact their state senators and telling them, “It’s time to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana in Vermont.”

New Hampshire: Senate Blocks Widely Supported Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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Despite overwhelming approval in the House — and a poll released last week that found 63% of New Hampshire voters support such legislation — the Senate tabled HB 618 on Thursday evening

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday evening blocked a widely supported bill that would have removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

After Senators voted 9-15 to overturn the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation that the bill be killed, Sens. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and David Pierce (D-Etna) proposed a compromise floor amendment to HB 618. Four senators argued strongly against the bill and the amendment: David Boutin (R-Hooksett), Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), Gary Daniels (R-Milford), and Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith).

Senators were unable to agree on the language and the bill was tabled.

HB 618, which the House approved 297-67 in March, would have made possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

New Hampshire: Former Narcotics Officer To Testify In Support Of Marijuana Decrim Bill

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A former narcotics officer will testify at a New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday in support of a bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

At 9 a.m. ET, immediately prior to the hearing, Maj. Neill Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), will join Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project at a news conference in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9: 40 a.m. ET in Room 100 of the State House.

HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Schroadter and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and up to $500 for third and subsequent offenses. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

The House of Representatives approved the measure 297-67 on March 11.

“New Hampshire is the only state in New England that still doles out criminal records and jail time for simple marijuana possession,” said Simon, a Goffstown resident and New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “People’s lives should not be turned upside down just for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Legalize And Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

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Measure with bipartisan support would establish a legal market for licensed businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older

Massachusetts lawmakers this week introduced a bill that would make marijuana legal for adults and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

H. 1561, sponsored by Rep. David Rogers (D-Belmont), Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), and a bipartisan group of 13 co-sponsors, would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. The bill would also establish a regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and testing facilities.

“Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society, and it ought to be treated that way,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “There is a mountain of evidence demonstrating marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, less toxic, and less likely to contribute to violent and reckless behavior.

"Adults shouldn’t be punished for making the safer choice,” Simon said.

The Marijuana Policy Project plans to support a 2016 ballot initiative to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol if the legislature fails to pass such a measure sooner.

“Voters in Massachusetts are ready to end marijuana prohibition,” Simon said. “We hope their elected officials are, too. If the status quo is maintained in the legislature, change will occur at the ballot box.”

New Hampshire: House Approves Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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Bill with bipartisan support would replace potential jail time with a civil fine for possession of small amounts of marijuana

The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill 297-67 that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure will now be considered in the Senate.

“We’re pleased to see such strong legislative support for this important legislation,” said Matt Simon, Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “We hope the Senate will agree with their colleagues in the House and the vast majority of state voters that it’s time to stop criminalizing people for simple marijuana possession.”

HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and up to $500 for third or subsequent offenses. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.

New Hampshire: House Committee Approves Measure Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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Bill that would replace potential jail time with a civil fine receives bipartisan support in House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Thursday approved a bill 12-3 that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure will now go to the full House for a vote.

“Nobody should face time in jail simply for possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Matt Simon, Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “We’re glad the committee members agreed, and we hope the rest of their colleagues in the Legislature will, too. This is a commonsense reform that is long overdue.”

HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for third or subsequent offenses. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.

The House passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 215-92, but the Senate refused to consider it.

Vermont: House Bill Introduced To Regulate And Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

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H. 277 mirrors the Senate bill, introduced last week, to establish a legal market for licensed businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older

State Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Vermont. Nine co-sponsors have signed on to H. 277, which mirrors S. 95, the Senate bill introduced last week by Sen. David Zuckerman (P-Chittenden).

“There is a lot of support among legislators and the public for ending marijuana prohibition in Vermont,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is part of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. “It is never too soon to replace a failed, antiquated policy with a more sensible, evidence-based approach.

"If it’s the right thing to do, the right time to do it is now,” Simon said.

H. 277 and S. 95 would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana; grow up to two flowering marijuana plants and seven non-flowering plants in a secure indoor location; and possess the marijuana yielded from those plants at the same location. It would remain illegal to consume marijuana in public or drive while impaired by marijuana.

West Virginia: Senate Leaders Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill

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Legislation would allow people with debilitating medical conditions to access and use medical marijuana without fear of arrest

West Virginia Sen. Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Ripley) on Monday introduced a bill that would allow state residents with debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to grow and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

The bill, known as SB 546, would establish a state-regulated system of medical marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries to provide medical marijuana to licensed patients. The legislation is cosponsored by Senate Minority Leader Jeffrey Kessler (D-Glen Dale) and Senate Majority Whip Daniel Hall (R-Oceana), has been introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources.

“Marijuana has proven effective in treating a number of serious medical conditions and is far safer than many currently prescribed medications,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “No one deserves to be treated like a criminal for using marijuana to treat a serious medical condition.

“West Virginians deserve the chance to use this medicine if their doctors think that it will help,” Simon said. “It's time to stop criminalizing patients for using a treatment option that can dramatically improve their quality of life.”

Vermont: Bill Introduced To Legalize, Regulate, Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

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Sen. David Zuckerman (P-Hinesburg) introduced a bill Tuesday night that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Vermont.

“Marijuana prohibition has worn out its welcome in Vermont,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is part of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. “This is an opportunity for state lawmakers to demonstrate leadership on this issue and set an example for other states to follow in coming years.

"It’s not often that legislators have the chance to improve public safety, bolster the economy, and enhance personal liberties all in one piece of legislation,” Simon said.

The bill, S. 95, would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. They could grow up to two flowering marijuana plants and seven non-flowering plants in a secure indoor location, and they would also be allowed to possess the marijuana grown from those plants at the same location.

It would remain illegal to consume marijuana in public or drive while impaired by marijuana.

The Department of Public Safety would be directed to license and regulate marijuana retail stores, lounges, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing laboratories. Localities would have the ability to regulate or prohibit marijuana businesses within their borders.

New Hampshire: Supporters Of Marijuana Legalization Bill Hold Press Conference

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Bill sponsors joined by attorneys Paul Twomey and Jonathan Cohen, and Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, at event prior to House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee hearing on HB 618

Supporters of a bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in New Hampshire held a news conference at 1:30 p.m. ET in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building prior to a hearing on the bill by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket), was be joined at the event by bill cosponsor Rep. Joe Lachance (R-Manchester), attorney Paul Twomey, attorney Jonathan Cohen, and Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project.

The committee hearing followed, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET in Room 204 of the Legislative Office Building.

HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Schroadter and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six marijuana plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony.

Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.

New Hampshire: Lawmakers To Consider Removing Marijuana Possession Penalties

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Bill introduced with bipartisan support would replace criminal penalties and potential jail time with a civil fine of up to $100 for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana

A bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The House passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 215-92, but the Senate refused to consider it.

HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six marijuana plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony.

Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000 in New Hampshire, which is the only state left in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.

"Criminalizing someone for possessing a small amount of marijuana causes far more harm than marijuana itself,” said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is supporting the bill. "A criminal record can prevent someone from accessing employment, an education, and even a home.”

New Hampshire: One Year After Medical Marijuana Law, Patients Still Risking Arrest

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On Wednesday — the first anniversary of Gov. Hassan’s signing of H.B. 573 — Rep. Donald ‘Ted’ Wright will join patients and advocates at a demonstration in front of the State House

One year after New Hampshire adopted a law intended to allow seriously ill people to use medical marijuana, patients are still facing criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

On Wednesday — the first anniversary of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signing of H.B. 573 — Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright (R-Tuftonboro) will join patients and advocates at a demonstration in front of the New Hampshire State House to discuss a list of grievances and requests to the governor. Patients will then deliver the list to Gov. Hassan’s office.

The list of grievances and requests is pasted below and available online at http://mpp.org/NHgrievances.

“Patients have nothing to celebrate on the first anniversary of New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law,” said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Implementation of the program has been beset by needless delays, and people with debilitating conditions still face criminal penalties for possessing any amount of marijuana. This situation is unacceptable.

“We’re fed up with state officials’ stonewalling,” Simon said. “It’s time to start listening to the seriously ill people the medical marijuana law was intended to help.”

U.S.: Christie Says He Wouldn't Treat Marijuana States Well As President

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Friday that states which have legalized marijuana "probably" wouldn't be treated well if he is elected President.

The governor was campaigning with New Hampshire GOP gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein when he was asked by Brinck Slattery, a Republican running for state representative: "I know that you have some ambitions for D.C., perhaps. If you were President, how would you treat states that have legalized marijuana?"

"Probably not well," Christie responded, walking away from the conversation, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. "Not well, but we'll see. We'll have to see what happens." Christie's statement was captured in a video shot by Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"It's one thing for Governor Christie to say he doesn't like what's happening in Colorado; quite another thing for him to threaten federal interference if he became President," Slattery said.

"Widely and generally speaking, that reflects his philosophy on marijuana, legalization and restrictions for medically based programs," said Michael Drewniak, Christie's press secretary, of the governor's comment.

Twenty-three states have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, with New York being the latest; Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational use as well. Alaska votes on legalization in August.

New Hampshire: Medical Marijuana Patients, Advocates To Comment On Proposed Patient Registry Rules

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Advocates will urge regulators to more swiftly implement program that will provide seriously ill patients with legal access to medical marijuana; hearing will take place at the Department of Health and Human Services Brown Building Auditorium at 9:30 a.m. ET Thursday

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday on its proposed rules for the patient registry portion of the state’s medical marijuana program. Patients and advocates will comment on the draft rules (available here) and the impact of a memo from the attorney general’s office (available here) that has delayed implementation of the program.

The Marijuana Policy Project is urging regulators to begin issuing ID cards to patients as quickly as possible.

“It is critical that the state begin issuing ID cards to patients as soon as the rules for the patient registry have been finalized,” said Matt Simon, a Goffstown-based New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “There is no reason to delay the program, and many patients can’t afford to wait any longer for relief.

"Our state should not continue to criminalize seriously ill people who are using medical marijuana under their doctors’ supervision,” Simon said.

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