New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) last Thursday made good on his threat to veto a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 409, approved by the legislature. Lynch did the same thing to a similar medical marijuana bill passed by the legislature in 2009.
In a lengthy veto statement, Lynch explained his reasoning, but not before first expressing his "personal compassion for those who suffer from debilitating medical conditions who wish to use marijuana to alleviate their symptoms and the side effects of medical treatment."
Lynch noted that lawmakers had attempted to address his concerns about medical marijuana, but "this new legislation will not ensure the limited use of marijuana for medical purposes." Because the number of potential marijuana cultivation sites is "virtually unlimited," the result would be "the proliferation of marijuana for unlawful use."
Lynch also noted that "law enforcement has serious concerns" about "unauthorized use" of marijuana. Although the bill requires that grow locations be registered with the state, police are not granted routine information about who has registered, and they don't like that. Police also don't like that the inspection and oversight of medical marijuana grows is left in the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Lynch also objected to a provision in the bill allowing medical marijuana use by minors. He was "very concerned" that allowing seriously ill kids to use medical marijuana would "downplay the perceived risk of the use of this drug and lead to increased adolescent use."
And because "there are many types of marijuana with different degrees of potency," Lynch was concerned that the lack of restrictions on amount and frequency of use could lead to "significant health dangers," although it is unclear just what those dangers are.
"I continue to believe that the most effective manner in which to facilitate the safe and controlled use of marijuana for medical purposes is to distribute the drug like any other controlled substance through a regulated prescription system," Lynch concluded. "I recognize that such a system is unlikely as long as marijuana use for medicinal purposes remains illegal under federal law. As well intentioned as the efforts reflected in SB 409 are, I cannot support establishing a system for the use of medical marijuana that poses risks to the patient, lacks adequate oversight and funding, and risks the proliferation of a serious drug."
But the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford) said he would continue to seek support to override the governor's veto.
"This is a limited, responsible bill, and it’s designed to protect some of our state's most desperately ill citizens," Forsythe said. "SB 409 has gained momentum and support throughout the legislative process, and the result of our hard work is a bill the House and Senate should be proud to pass into law."
Patients and their family members don't want to wait any longer, either. Ted Wright of Tuftonboro, whose wife Cindy has been fighting breast cancer for 18 years, urged legislators to override the veto.
"Despite the governor's unfortunate veto, there's no reason patients like Cindy should have to wait another day for medical marijuana to be a legal option," Wright said.
Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed, saying, "Governor Lynch has chosen to bury his head in the sand on this issue, but ultimately it will be legislators who decide the fate of patients, and they know their constituents will be watching."