CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Sensing greater support from lawmakers to legalize marijuana for people with serious illnesses or chronic pain, medical marijuana opponents suggested at a Senate hearing Thursday that the drug be allowed in the context of a clinical study.


Dr. Seddon Savage of the New Hampshire Medical Society said collecting patient data could improve treatment. The state could potentially get approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration for such a study, she said, removing the conflict with the federal prohibition on marijuana.


Richard Crate, with the New Hampshire Police Chiefs Association, said his organization still opposes any form of legalization, but if the Legislature does move forward, he hopes they will seek federal approval.


The study proposal was met with skepticism by medical marijuana proponents who said it might violate patient privacy. They also questioned how it might be paid for.


‘‘It’s being offered as a way to delay the implementation of this law,’’ Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, said. Reagan is one of the bill’s sponsors and sits on the Senate Health Education and Human Services Committee, where the hearing was held Thursday.


Despite lawmakers’ growing support for medical marijuana, there are still concerns about certain provisions in the bill passed by the House.


Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, the bill’s primary sponsor in the House, said its language regarding permissible conditions was tightened, making it so patients need to show they have a qualifying illness and a qualifying symptom. Regulators could approve conditions not listed on a case-by-case basis. She said she’s willing to work with the governor and the Senate to address lingering concerns, but stressed the importance of passing a medical marijuana bill to improve the lives of several hundred New Hampshire residents with serious conditions and illnesses.


Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she would support a tightly regulated medical marijuana law, but Thursday voiced concerns about a home-grow option, despite having voted for medical marijuana bill in 2009 with a home-grow option. That bill was later amended to a dispensary model before being vetoed by former Gov. John Lynch.


Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said in a statement that the governor’s concerns are about the state’s ability to regulate a home-grow option, but she will continue to listen to stakeholders as the bill moves forward.


Schlachman said both a dispensary and a home-grow option are necessary to ensure patient access. The cost of marijuana from a dispensary is typically several hundred dollars per ounce, placing it beyond the means of some patients. The bill currently allows patients to grow up to three adult marijuana plants and would sanction five dispensaries in the state.


Those are concerns Hassan likely heard Thursday when she met with patients who would like to treat their symptoms with marijuana.


One of those patients is 27-year-old Clayton Holton. He is wheelchair bound due to a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a symptom of which is severe weight loss. He said using marijuana has helped maintain his weight and provided a measure of comfort. He testified in favor of the home-grow option, noting that in other states it has taken two years or more for dispensaries to get up and running.


‘‘I hope that you understand that patients have to be able to grow their own, if for no other reason than some of us don’t have two years,’’ he testified.


Holton added that after his medical and other expense, he could not afford dispensary prices. He said he brought those issues to the governor’s attention during their meeting.


© Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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