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Medical marijuana, again
The legislature keeps incendiary issues alive

05/17/12



Medicinal marijuana could be headed back to the forefront of state politics.

The issue reached the front burner a few years ago, with Gov. John Lynch ultimately vetoing the legislation, which was designed to allow terminally ill patients to use marijuana in limited quantities. Lynch cited the possibility of proliferation in his veto position. But the issue hasn’t gone away.

Both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate have signed off on Senate Bill 409, which would legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. A House committee voted 18-8 in support of the measure last week with an amendment that would reportedly use private donations to fund the program. According to a Union Leader report, the program would cost about $200,000 annually.

New Hampshire has a very distinct libertarian streak, one that falls along the lines of “if you’re not bothering your neighbor, then your neighbor leaves you alone.” It’s that type of thinking that will probably help get this measure passed in both bodies. But whether or not it will get enough support to overcome another veto by Lynch is very much in question.

The House was expected to take up the amended version of the bill this week. It passed the bill by a wide margin earlier this year. As it stood last week, the House probably has the votes to override a veto, but the Senate was three votes short.

The bill would allow a patient or a registered caregiver to possess as much as six ounces of marijuana or to cultivate as many as four plants. Law enforcement would know the location of plants.

In 2009, Lynch was faced with the prospect of having to decide whether to support medicinal marijuana, gay marriage and potentially a repeal of the state’s capital punishment law ? the trifecta of social legislation. The death penalty legislation was pushed off to a study committee, and his veto derailed medicinal marijuana. Gay marriage legislation got to his desk and he signed it, albeit somewhat begrudgingly, as he came down from his previously stated stance that marriage was between a man and a woman.
It was an interesting time in the legislature and for Lynch. At that time, Democrats dominated the landscape. But Lynch was never going to be the full-board progressive that many Democrats probably had hoped. He certainly never wanted all three of those pieces of legislation on his desk. He probably didn’t want to see any of them, for that matter. He has always opted to stick his neck out more on issues that are decidedly less partisan ? and less controversial. Not that he won’t take stands, but he is choosy.

But this time around, he faces a different political landscape with Republicans in control of the House and Senate ? with veto-proof majorities in both houses. His stance hasn’t changed, however. Law enforcement doesn’t support this bill, and he has sided with the law enforcement community. Still, Lynch did say in 2009 that he could be open to a medicinal marijuana bill with tighter restrictions. It doesn’t look like he’s in a spot where he’s ready to support the bill this time around.

How would he handle the medicinal marijuana bill this time around, particularly since supporters say they’ve tweaked the bill to address some of the governor’s concerns? And, if he does in fact veto it, what happens then? Do the House and Senate have the votes ? because it would take bipartisan support ? to overcome a veto on this?

Voter ID staggers on

Voter identification has become one of the most heated issues of the last two years. For some, it’s common sense: you need to show identification to cash a check or buy a beer, so why shouldn’t you have to display a photo identification to do something as important as voting?

Well, the opposition says because a lot of people ? more than you might think ? don’t have photo identification, and because it’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist. They also say it’s an effort to suppress voter turnout.

The issue made headlines this past fall, when documentary filmmaker James O’Keefe filmed members of his team voting as people who had recently died. Voter identification supporters said it proved the point that voter identification was needed to prevent voter fraud.
The voter identification bill was squashed last year after much hoopla, but the issue is back. The House Election Committee voted 13-7 last week to support a voter identification bill. The bill would require voters to present photo identification before voting. If people don’t have identification, election workers would take their photograph and attach it to a sworn statement from the voter.

Lynch vetoed a voter identification bill last year and lawmakers in the Senate were unable to overcome it. There are 14 states with voter identification laws.
The big piece of news in the House committee’s plan is that it would enact the legislation in time for the November election this year ? that’s even though election officials say getting the bill up and running by then would be problematic.
The House passed the measure 226-115 earlier this week.






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