CONCORD, N.H.—The state Senate has joined the House in endorsing medicinal marijuana use by residents with crippling ailments.The 14-10 Senate vote Wednesday sent the bill back to the House to review relatively minor changes. If the House endorses the changes and Gov. John Lynch signs the bill, New Hampshire would be the 14th state to legalize medicinal marijuana.
Also on Wednesday's agenda: legalizing gay marriage, mandating seat belts for adults and repealing the state's death penalty law.
Advocates of medicinal marijuana said the bill would show compassion to the severely ill. Opponents sided with police, who said the proposal would invite abuse and be difficult to regulate.
The governor also has sided with law enforcement but has not said he would veto the bill. He has said he's open to allowing marijuana use in hospitals or hospices because they are contained, controlled environments, but current federal drug laws make such scenarios unlikely.
The bill would allow patients or their caregivers to grow and possess six marijuana plants and two ounces of the drug. Doctors would have to certify a patient has a debilitating medical condition and would benefit from using marijuana.
Only patients in constant pain, having seizures or severe, persistent muscle spasms or having severe nausea or vomiting and who aren't helped by legal medications for at least three months would qualify for the drug.
The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Evalyn Merrick, applauded the Senate action, suggesting the House will accept the Senate's changes. The changes include a commission to study how patients would get marijuana and stronger privacy provisions.
Merrick, D-Lancaster, has said she has multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, and used marijuana to quell queasiness from chemotherapy in 2002.
The transgender rights bill would have protected transgender individuals under the state's anti-discrimination law. The Senate voted 24-0 to kill it, but only after Democrats complained about how ugly earlier debate on the bill had been.
Republicans had called it the "bathroom bill" based on the argument it would have opened all bathrooms to men and women, potentially endangering children in women's rooms.
Supporters said it was a straightforward anti-discrimination bill to protect vulnerable people who identify with the gender opposite of their birth.
According to the Transgender Law Policy Institute, 13 states and the District of Columbia have laws banning discrimination based on transgender status
By Norma Love
April 29, 2009