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Marijuana veto override falls short; Rep. Merrick to work with Gov. Lynch to remove roadblocks


November 04, 2009
CONCORD — The House of Representatives overrode Governor John Lynch's veto of HB 648 to legalize marijuana by 240 to 115 — 10 over the bar of a two-thirds vote — on Wednesday, known as "Veto Day."

But the state Senate came up two votes short of the needed 16 of 24 to make a two-thirds majority that would have made the Granite State the 14th state to legalize marijuana use by severely ill patients. Nine state Senate Republicans and one Democrat voted "no," just as they had before Gov. Lynch vetoed it.

John Gallus of Berlin, the bill's prime sponsor in the Senate, was the only Republican there to vote "yes."

HB 648's prime sponsor, Rep. Evalyn Merrick, a Democrat of Lancaster, issued a statement following the defeat of the bill's override attempt in the Senate. She pledged to continue her efforts "to give New Hampshire's sickest citizens a legal, medicinal alternative which will help relieve the ravages of debilitating medical conditions, cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy when all else fails."

"My plan is to work with the Governor to help eliminate any concerns or doubts he may have and to get him on board!" Rep. Merrick said. The mother of two adult children, Rep. Merrick used a small amount of marijuana herself several years ago when recovering from ill effects following a bone marrow transplant.

"I am extremely proud of the Representatives who voted in favor of the sickest citizens they serve by helping override the veto in the House of Representatives," Rep. Merrick said in an e-mailed statement. "The voices of their constituents were heard, and I believe it will bode well for continuing efforts to legalize cannabis (marijuana) for medicinal purposes. I am also grateful to the Senators who voted on the side of compassion and sensibility."

She said, however: "The 10 Senators and those Representatives who voted against the bill sent a very clear message that they do not understand the suffering of their constituency. From the comments made and the votes cast, it is obvious many did not read the bill. If they had, their vote may have been very different. They would have understood that this is a bill of compassion, that it is one more way of helping people with debilitating diseases and those at life's end to find some measure of comfort that can't be found with traditional medicines. They would have realized that every concern, every obstacle was resolved and that in fact, HB 648 is the most tightly crafted, best piece of legislation in this country regarding medicinal marijuana. They also would have understood that the bill is budget neutral and, other than start up fees that would have been compensated, this legislation would have actually decreased the financial burden on the Departments of Safety and Corrections AND on our counties."

In his veto message, Gov. Lynch has cited concerns over cultivation, distribution, and the potential for abuse. The bill was designed to establish three nonprofit "compassion centers" from which 2 ounces of marijuana could be dispensed every 10 days to severely ill patients whose doctors approve the drug's use. The state would have licensed the centers and issued IDs to staff, approved patients, and caregivers.

Republican Senators who voted "no" were: Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro; Deputy Minority Leader Bob Odell of Lempster; Dean of the Senate Sheila Roberge of Bedford; Minority Leader Peter Bragdon of Milford; Sharon Carson of Londonderry; Ted Gatsas of Manchester; John Barnes of Raymond; Robert Letourneau of Derry; and Deputy Minority Leader Michael Downing of Salem; and the sole Democrat who voted "no" was Betsi DeVries of Concord.

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