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N.H. lawmakers reach deal on marijuana bills

CONCORD, N.H. — Negotiators in the New Hampshire House and Senate reached a deal on a medical marijuana bill Tuesday, positioning the state to join more than a dozen others in legalizing the drug for seriously ill patients.

Both chambers had previously passed the bill, but the Senate version eliminated a House-proposed option for patients to grow the drug at home, as well as to obtain it at a dispensary, and Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said she would not sign the bill if the home-grow provision remained.

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House lawmakers agreed to drop that provision Tuesday and go along with other Senate changes, in exchange for specifying that the commission implementing the system be appointed as soon as the bill is passed.

Opponents of the home cultivation option were concerned about the state’s ability to regulate it. Supporters argued that it was critical to ensure immediate access for terminally ill patients, given that it would take the state close to a year to write the regulations for dispensaries.

Representative Elaine Andrews-Ahearn, Democrat of Exeter, said it would also be a hardship for some patients to travel long distances to the four sanctioned dispensaries.

Under the bill, patients diagnosed with cancer or Crohn’s disease, and other conditions could possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana. Dispensaries could have a maximum of 80 marijuana plants, 160 seedlings, and 80 ounces of marijuana, or 6 ounces per qualifying patient. They also would have a limit of three mature cannabis plants, 12 seedlings, and 6 ounces for each patient who designates the dispensary as his or her treatment center.

To qualify for medical marijuana, a person would have to have been a patient of the prescribing doctor for at least 90 days, have tried other remedies, and have exhibited certain symptoms. Only New Hampshire residents would qualify. ‘‘This is a first step; things can always be added later on,’’ said Senator Nancy Stiles, Republican of Hampton. The bill’s main sponsor, Representative Donna Schlachman, said she was disappointed that the compromise bill did not include what she considers adequate protection for patients using marijuana before the dispensaries are set up.

‘‘We have really opened this bill up so law enforcement in any town that is really against any form of the legalization of therapeutic cannabis is in a position to arrest people simply because they’ve applied for their card and it hasn’t come yet,’’ said Schlachman, Democrat of Exeter.

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