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Viewpoint: Should we legalize cannabis in NH?

  • Dan Stockwell Courtesy Photo—



For the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, January 08, 2019 4:19PM

New Hampshire is in a great position to legalize cannabis this legislative year and do it in a way that can promote safety and wellness, enhance our economy and can help address our most desperate issue, which is our epidemic level of opioid related overdoses.

I have not yet read the language of the current proposed bill to legalize cannabis in New Hampshire for 2019, and as of this writing I believe it still is a work in progress. By all indications I know of, the forthcoming bill will reflect the recommendations presented in the recent summary report submitted by the N.H. Commission to Study the Legalization of Marijuana on Nov. 1, 2018. Marijuana means cannabis plants with more than .3% of the psychoactive substance THC.

Industrial hemp, on the other hand, is advised by a lesser known committee: the N.H. Committee To Study the Feasibility of Using Hemp in Agricultural and Industrial Processes and To Further Study the Licensing, Registration, and Permitting of Industrial Hemp Growers (HB 151, Chapter 17:1, Laws of 2018). Industrial hemp is defined as cannabis that has THC levels less than .3% and does not produce the “high” that is associated with marijuana. Hemp is known to be able to provide a spectrum of industrial uses for fiber for paper, cloth, animal bedding, oil for cosmetics and fuel. Already an entire commercial industry has materialized in hemp agriculture in the states that have legalized hemp.There is another amazing safe compound produced from hemp that has been well researched and approved to be safe by the U.N. and World Health Organization. It has also as garnered approval and endorsement from the likes of Consumer Reports and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. It is cannabidiol, also called CBD. It has an astoundingly wide array of therapeutic effects on many conditions and maladies all without the intoxicating effect of THC.

CBD advocates of all stripes – users, practitioners, and commercial hemp producers – declared that the signing of the recent 2018 Farm Bill represented the legalization of hemp derived CBD at the federal level. This notion was quashed when the FDA stated that unless the CBD producer and product have been specifically approved by the FDA, any business providing those products is operating illegally until they complete the FDA approval process. So for the time being CBD will remain as a Schedule 1 Federally Controlled Substance.

This is relevant because many people in New Hampshire are already using hemp derived CBD therapeutically and it is available on store shelves statewide, albeit with no formal regulation in New Hampshire. Anyone purchasing CBD should confirm its quality with a trustworthy and knowledgeable person. Vermont has a new and thriving CBD industry that is providing healthy therapeutic products to mainstream citizens legally in Vermont under state law. This was prior to moving forward with the legalization of “recreational marijuana”. Many of these Vermont CBD products can be found commercially available on store shelves in New Hampshire and there is a rapidly increasing demand for these quality cannabis derived herbal and supplemental products. The FDA is basically cutting us off from Vermont’s legal safe CBD. The only FDA approved CBD right now is the GW Pharmaceuticals product Epidiolex. The yearly projected cost of an Epidiolex prescription is $32,000 per year. This is outrageous. There are currently thousands of people in New Hampshire who depend on CBD for safe, affordable, sober relief for many debilitating symptoms and conditions, including, but not limited to, depression, chronic pain, neuropathy, multiple sclerosis and seizures. The FDA’s recent determination makes all current therapeutic use of CBD from cannabis hemp illegal except for the approved Epidiolex and any other products that get FDA approved and will be permitted to roll out at Schedule 5.

The Marijuana Study Committee had the foresight to determine that we will not be using either the term “recreational” or “marijuana” in regard to our cannabis legalization in NH. We will instead be legalizing “cannabis” for “adult use” in New Hampshire. This is important because we must recognize that not only are we legalizing the use of cannabis for recreational purposes, but also legalizing the adult use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. It is important that we legalize therapeutic (whether perceived or proven; it does not matter when it comes to an adult’s right to self-medicate) adult use in our cannabis legalization to preserve and protect our current access to the therapeutic hemp derived CBD. New Hampshire’s language will include the therapeutic use of CBD derived from hemp, which is an important distinction because CBD does not make the user “high” in any psychoactive way. The FDA (the same regulatory agency that approves cigarettes for our consumption) is actually providing the best reason I know of to legalize cannabis in New Hampshire, and that is to keep the non-intoxicating hemp derived cannabinoids accessible and affordable.

Cannabis must be regulated and accessible as a legal product in New Hampshire, instead of existing only on the state’s black market. The black market has no obligation to limit sales to children. It also puts users in touch with other more dangerous drugs, thus creating the infamous “gateway” to harder drugs.

Cannabis prohibition exacerbates the New Hampshire opioid epidemic. If cannabis were legally available, it could provide a safer alternative for many individuals who want to be on the pathway to recovery. It can also reduce an individual’s use of a narcotic, making overdose less likely. Our legalization will make cannabis more accessible and affordable for those of lesser means by allowing individuals to grow a limited number of plants for their own personal adult use whether it be medical, medicinal, therapeutic, or recreational.

In conclusion, it is important to recognize that New Hampshire’s cannabis legalization must not be limited to “recreational marijuana” but must include “all adult use” to protect the security of our God-given right to this plant with its many diverse and incredible potentials. Most important to remember is that cannabis is successfully being used today as a safe, sober, alternative to many medications for relief of many maladies. Truthful and sensible education will be critical for keeping cannabis access affordable as well as safe, so we can all benefit.

 

Dan Stockwell of Dublin is a member of Americans for Safe Access, the largest national organization supporting access to safe, legal cannabis for therapeutic and research purposes. He is also a qualified designated cannabis caregiver under the New Hampshire Therapeutic Cannabis Program, which allows him to legally access the state medical cannabis dispensaries for his New Hampshire qualified cannabis patients and assist them in using that medication.