By Telegraph Editorial | Published by The Nashua Telegraph
And then there was one.
Effective Jan. 1, New Hampshire will be the only New England state in which patients cannot receive safe, legal access to medical marijuana.
Last month, Massachusetts joined Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont and a growing number of other states by voting to protect seriously ill patients from arrest when their doctors recommend marijuana for treatment.
So much for “Live Free or Die.”
As residents of New Hampshire, we’ve heard the motto a million times. But when we look at the states around us, and the actions they are taking to allow their residents to live more freely than we do, we start to wonder if we’re losing our “live free or die” spirit.
We wonder what it means to live in a state in which our seriously ill cannot legally receive relief from a natural plant when recommended by their doctor.
If you’re older than 18, you don’t have to wear a seat belt. If you’re a motorcycle rider, and want to feel the breeze through your hair, no helmet is required.
We reduce cigarette taxes, better enabling our population – and our nearby neighbors – to smoke more affordably. (Never mind that smokers make up 20 percent of the adult population and cause $564 million in annual health care costs.)
But if you are ill, your doctor can’t prescribe marijuana, because New Hampshire is not quite “free” enough.
We’re not talking about Cheech and Chong-style smoking for fun and silly antics. We’re talking about allowing medical board certified doctors to prescribe the medicinal usage of marijuana for patients who physicians feel are best treated by cannabis.
Sure, marijuana has side effects like most medical treatments, but doctors should have the opportunity to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks, as they do with other treatments.
Advocates tried twice recently to push through medical marijuana bills in New Hampshire – in 2009 and 2012 – only to have the bills vetoed by Gov. John Lynch.
This year, in a true bipartisan effort, the Legislature nearly had the two-thirds support needed to override the veto, with 10 of the 19 Senate Republicans voting in favor of the bill, as well as 62 percent of Republicans in the House.
Looking ahead at 2013, the prospect of passing a medical marijuana bill looks brighter.
Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan voted three times in favor of the medical marijuana bill as Senate majority leader in 2009, and in November, residents voted in a Legislature with a more equal balance between Republicans and Democrats.
New Hampshire is well known for its independence, but being unique by not allowing the medicinal use of marijuana is not something we should be proud of.
In order to protect our most seriously ill residents, we must legalize medicinal marijuana so doctors can use it to offer relief. Our most vulnerable residents are counting on it.