New Hampshire’s legislature has set the stage for the Granite State to become the 19th State to legalize medical marijuana.  On June 26, 2013, the legislature approved  HB 573, also known as “Use of Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes.”  The statute allows patients diagnosed with certain qualifying conditions (including cancer, multiple sclerosis, Chrohn’s disease, and HIV/AIDS) to possess up to two ounces of marijuana.  It will also establish four non-profit, state licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

While the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate had both previously passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana, HB 573 is a compromise legislation that was necessary due to significant differences in each chamber’s bills.  The lawmakers reached a bicameral compromise in early June – agreeing to withdraw a controversial home cultivation provision and to remove post-traumatic stress disorder from the list of qualifying conditions in exchange for enacting a medical marijuana oversight commission.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan has stated publicly she intends to sign the legislation into law.  If so, medical marijuana dispensaries could open within the next eighteen months.

The bill provides some level of protection to employers with drug-free workplaces, stating specifically that it should not be construed to require “any accommodation of the therapeutic use of cannabis on the property or premises of any place of employment . . . [and] shall in no way limit an employer’s ability to discipline an employee for ingesting cannabis in the workplace or for working while under the influence of cannabis.”  Moreover, it does not provide any specific protections for employees who are terminated, disciplined, or refused hire because of failing a drug test or using medical marijuana.