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Should New Hampshire allow patients to grow their own medical marijuana?

Medical marijuana is legal in New Hampshire, but patients have to buy their therapeutic cannabis at one of a handful of Alternative Treatment Centers. Now, legislators are considering allowing patients to grow their own marijuana at home.

The law as it stands

Back in 2013, New Hampshire legalized the use of marijuana as a medical treatment. Under that law — RSA 126-X — patients with certain symptoms can be prescribed the use of cannabis by their healthcare provider. Some of these include:

■suffering from chronic severe pain;

■diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition such as cancer, glaucoma, or HIV;

■a terminal medical condition resulting in at least one of a list of specific symptoms, such as seizures or severe nausea.

Patients taking medical marijuana have to get the drug from one of the specific alternative treatment centers allowed in New Hampshire.

Patients with a green thumb might be wondering: can I just grow my own medical marijuana at home, instead? The answer right now in New Hampshire is no, but a bill up for debate this year would change that.

What’s in the bill?

HB 350 (2021) is a bill to legalize the home growing of marijuana in New Hampshire. This means that a patient — or their designated caregiver —could grow cannabis at the patient’s residence. Of course, there would be some caveats to this. For one, the home-grower would need to report their activities to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The designated caregiver would have to be at least 21 years old. They would only be allowed to help one patient at a time grow therapeutic cannabis.

How much marijuana could someone grow?

Unsurprisingly, there would be limits on how much marijuana you could possess at one time. Let’s break it down. Someone home-growing their therapeutic cannabis would probably have some marijuana in the form of a ready-to-use drug, and some still growing in soil. According to the bill, a person engaged in home grow could have eight ounces of usable cannabis and any amount of unusable cannabis. In addition to this, growers could have three mature cannabis plants, three immature cannabis plants, and 12 seedlings.

Another caveat: don’t think you’ll be planting cannabis plants in your window boxes. The bill specifically states that the plants must not be in public view, including from another private property, without the use of binoculars or other optical aids.

Landlords would also have the right to prohibit their tenants from home-growing in their rental properties.

The right move for patients

HB 350 passed the full New Hampshire House on Feb. 24. Those in favor felt that the bill would help patients who can’t afford the prices charged by alternative treatment centers or who may live hours away from the nearest center. They pointed out that home-growing proposals have already passed the House multiple times, so this latest bill addresses concerns from past years. It is also more restrictive than cultivation laws in surrounding states where adults can grow six or more plants for recreational use.

Unintended consequences?

Not everyone is in favor of home grow, though. The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police has voiced its opposition, and Gov. Sununu vetoed the proposal in the past. Opponents worry that allowing home-growing of marijuana would make it much harder for law enforcement to do their jobs. Keeping medical marijuana confined to a handful of carefully-regulated treatment centers in New Hampshire helps make sure that patients and only patients are using the substance.

Next steps for home-growing

The Senate Health and Human Services committee had a public hearing on HB 350 back in March, but the full Senate has yet to vote on the bill. If you are interested in the issue, contact your senator and share your opinion. You can find who represents you on our website (citizenscount.org/elected-officials).

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