May 14, 2009 – State Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and county prosecutors have aggressively pushed back against a bill that would legalize marijuana for some seriously ill patients, sending lawmakers a letter calling marijuana an addictive drug and claiming that reclassifying marijuana as medicine could undermine efforts to keep youths from trying drugs. The bill’s supporters decry the letter as “misleading” and have circulated a seven-page rebuttal of the two-page letter.

The bill easily passed the House in March and the Senate last month, but its future remains in doubt. Gov. John Lynch has stopped short of vowing to veto it, saying he has “serious concerns” and calling the Senate version of the bill “unacceptable.” In the House, supporters put the brakes on the bill last week, voting not to accept the Senate’s amendments to the bill and instead calling for a conference committee to hammer out a final bill – with an eye toward crafting something Lynch will accept.

State Rep. Cindy Rosenwald said she met with senior Lynch staffers and left certain that Lynch would veto the current incarnation of the bill if it was sent to his desk. She left the meeting with a list of eight issues flagged by the governor’s staff, the most difficult one of which is distribution. The current bill would allow medicinal marijuana users – individuals who suffer from specific illnesses or symptoms, who’ve been prescribed the drug by a doctor and who have registered with the state – to grow their own marijuana. They’re also allowed to obtain it from other patients, including those from patients in one of the 13 states where medicinal marijuana is legal. Lynch, Rosenwald said, is “not comfortable with marijuana grown in residences.”

“I was absolutely clear when I left the meeting that he would not allow the Senate version to become law,” said Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat. That, she said, “is why I asked for a committee of conference.”

Debate over Ayotte’s letter is a microcosm of debate over the bill itself, an argument in which the urge to help human suffering competes against fears about human frailty, where practical considerations meet a backdrop of the decades-long national fight over marijuana policy, including questions over whether the drug is addictive and whether it is a “gateway” to other drugs. Full article here.

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