Thursday, November 12, 2015

Medical Marijuana in Timid New Hampshire

In 2013, the NH House passed HB 573, a bill that was supposed to enable access to medical marijuana. Twenty-eight months later, not a single patient has benefitted from it. One might think that there’s some foot-dragging going on. One would be absolutely correct.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is personal. David Emerson, my husband, died of multiple myeloma. That’s cancer of the bone marrow and blood plasma. The disease weakened his bones so much that he could break a rib just breathing.

In December 2008, David was having serious neck pain, and so we wound up in the ER one night. No one paid us much attention. Christmas vacation in a resort area meant that there were many more interesting things going on – until the X-rays came back and 3 people came screaming down the hall with a backboard. It seemed the bones in his cervical spine had deteriorated to the point where his head was in danger of falling off his neck. He would have been paralyzed. He had neurosurgery at Maine Med, where a titanium infrastructure was fused to the remaining bone. His head was secure - in fact, he’d never be able to move it again. David also had to have a three week course of radiation to protect the remaining bone. It was aimed at his neck. As a result, everything he ate or drank tasted like sheet metal.

He needed to eat and drink in order to recover from the surgery. He couldn’t muster up the will to do it. David was not a complainer, but this was more than even he could bear. One of his friends brought over a joint, which stimulated his appetite enough so that he could eat and drink, despite the taste. It also helped with his anxiety.

David was able to get unlimited prescriptions for opiates. The state he loved so much denied him legal access to medical marijuana. Cancer made him a criminal, and he hated that. He deserved a better death. That’s why this is personal.

The NH legislature passed 3 prior medical marijuana bills. Governor Lynch vetoed them all on the advice of law enforcement and his wife the pediatrician. Law enforcement mostly hates the idea of legal marijuana. The war on drugs guarantees them all kinds of extra money and shiny toys, and they’ve become addicted to those things. The reality that our drug policies are a failure does not matter. They want more money and bigger toys, because somehow more law enforcement will stem the tide. It’s akin to the believers in trickle down economics. Both have been failures for over 30 years now, but the believers in both are determined to keep on trying.

Here’s the thing. No one has died this year from injecting an overdose of marijuana. We aren’t hearing about a marijuana crisis.

Sure, we have a medical marijuana statute in our state, but it’s going nowhere. A byzantine system of approval for marijuana dispensaries was created. Apparently there will be four of them. The locations haven’t been officially decided. There will not be one in Carroll or Coos County. There may be one in Lebanon. A person dying of cancer in Colebrook or Pittsburg can look forward to a 2.5 or 3 hour road trip. It’s clear that this process wasn’t thought out with any kind of empathy or interest in job creation.

Our neighboring state of Maine passed a medical marijuana bill in 1999. In 2009, they added more qualifying conditions and created 8 dispensaries. Maine has a very humane system, one that involves a number of choices. Patients can grow their own, cultivating up to six plants. They may choose to use a registered caregiver, who can supply a small number of patients with marijuana, or they can use a dispensary.

New Hampshire has chosen a far more dictatorial system. A very small list of qualifying conditions. No growing. No registered caregivers. Four dispensaries. If you live out of range or you’re poor – well- tough noogies for you. You can either keep taking opiates or be a criminal. Have a nice death.

Last week, a woman named Linda Horan filed suit against the State of New Hampshire. Linda has stage 4 lung cancer. She is suing the state to get a card that certifies that she is a medical marijuana patient, so that she can go to Maine and access their humane system, given the absence of humanity here in the state where she lives. Linda may not live long enough to be able to access a dispensary in slow moving NH. She would prefer to live the remainder of her life without being stuck in an opiated haze. She would prefer to live out the rest of her life without being a criminal. This should not be too much to expect.

New Hampshire is often touted as a place of independent thinkers and “libertarian” philosophy. What that mostly means is that we get to live free of the kinds of amenities (like infrastructure) that other states provide as a matter of course. We are a state full of timid, wincing conservatives. We’re too afraid to eliminate the death penalty, because it upsets law enforcement. We’re too afraid to have a legislative study committee on end of life issues, because it upsets the governor. We’re too afraid to enact our medical marijuana statute because it upsets law enforcement, our AG and our governor. We are a state ruled by bumper sticker slogans (Ax The Tax!) and that, dear readers, has robbed us of any ability to have adult conversations.

This all says something ugly about what kind of state we are. Guns in the State House – NO PROBLEM! Managing your own illness – BIG PROBLEM!

My husband didn’t get to die the way he wanted to. I hope Linda Horan does. I hope her lawsuit moves the state forward in enacting our medical marijuana law. People with chronic or terminal illnesses should have choices in how they live and die. Opiates are ravaging our state. We have the ability to provide a humane alternative. All we need now is the courage.

This was published as an oped in the November 13, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 


ga* said...

Sorry about your Husband.

I wrote this a while ago. Just wanted to share.
The Healing Properties Of Cannabis-Medical Marijuana Needs To Be Legalized Nationally And Federally

Liberty Tech: The Signal Corps of the Unorginized Militia! said...

Your blog would not accept my long response, so I posted it to mine. Here is a link. THank you for writing this article.

susanthe said...

I'm sorry to read about your wife, Rich. It is a special kind of hell to watch someone you love dying.

Unknown said...

When New Hampshire residents start spending MONEY in OTHER states to get the
MEDICAL CARE that they NEED, things might change.

Until then, Don't hold your breath.

Oh, Yeah. One more Minor detail.

DON"T Get SICK while you're waiting.

Curt- said...

It is sad that peaceful choices are prohibited by law. That is aggression by the state against people.

susanthe said...

Oh, "Curt." It's bad policy. I realize that it thrills you to engage in Free Stater/anarchist whining about "aggression by the state," and it thrills you even more to think that I'll approve the comment so that you can bray about how I agree with you.

Pro-tip: you should have changed your very familiar avatar. Bob.