Medical marijuana gains Republican support in New Hampshire Senate
Two Republican senators added their support to SB 409 today, as the New Hampshire Senate voted 13-9 to approve a final draft of the medical marijuana bill.
Senate President Peter Bragdon (R-Milford) and Senator Fenton Groen (R-Rochester) joined the majority in support after having previously voted in opposition.
Advocates noted that 15 senators, including 10 Republicans and all five Democrats, have now voted in favor of the bill this year. One of the previous “yes” votes, former Senator Andy Sanborn (R-Henniker) resigned his seat yesterday to run for office from another district. A cosponsor of the bill, Senator John Gallus (R-Berlin) was not present for today’s vote.
The same final draft was approved by the House in a voice vote this morning. Now that the House and Senate have passed identical language for SB 409, the bill will be presented to Governor John Lynch.
Sadly, Lynch, a fourth-term Democrat serving his last year in the governor’s office, has pledged to veto the bill despite overwhelming support in both the House and Senate. When Lynch vetoed a similar bill in 2009, the House voted to override his veto but an effort in the Senate fell two votes short.
Senator Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), the bill’s prime sponsor, vowed he would continue working to gain two additional Senate votes in anticipation that a veto override may be necessary. “Most senators now agree we have a moral obligation to protect seriously ill patients from being arrested in our state,” he explained.
“There is no excuse for maintaining criminal penalties against patients in our state, when Vermont, Maine, and 15 other states have created exceptions under state law for medical use,” Forsythe continued.
“New Hampshire truly deserves better, and if there’s any way to get SB 409 passed into law, I will continue doing my best to make that happen,” he concluded.
Longtime House champion Rep. Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster), a cancer survivor who credits marijuana with helping to save her life, was similarly upbeat after the Senate vote.
“Over the years, we have convinced many legislators to support this critical reform,” she observed.
“With support either from Governor Lynch or two additional senators, this bill can finally pass and patients will finally have legal access to medical marijuana,” she concluded.
by Matt Simon