First Court-Sanctioned Case of Interstate Medical Cannabis Commerce
A potentially precedent-setting cannabis case comes out of the Northeast this week. Linda Horan, a lifelong Labor activist, said her last fight would be to pave the way for medical cannabis to be used in New Hampshire. While the Legislature there authorized medical cannabis more than two years ago, the State itself was slow to implement the policy leaving legal medical patients in limbo. Until dispensaries opened, NH was refusing to authorize patient cards to qualifying residents.
Enter Horan. With Stage IV lung cancer, she argued that by the time the dispensaries would be open, she would be dead. While wasting syndrome took more than twenty pounds from her in just a few short months, her tenacity never failed her, or her team of supporters. She sued the State for the right to have her medical card, arguing that she could travel to the neighboring State of Maine where she could procure her medication under its reciprocity laws.
Maine has allowed medical marijuana since 1999, and authorized medical dispensaries in 2009. Both were passed at the ballot box while the NH law was passed through the Legislature. Unlike Maine, NH does not allow for so-called “home grow” where patients can grow a limited number of plants for themselves, leaving the only legal means for patients to procure medical cannabis through dispensaries.
Judge Richard McNamara, a broadly respected judge whose rulings are rarely overturned ruled in favor of Horan, directing the NH Department of Health and Human Services to issue Horan a patient card. The decision hinged upon the fact that medical cannabis was, in fact, available to Horan, albeit in a nearby State.
What sets this civil case apart from all others is McNamara’s explicit insistence that Horan could bring medical cannabis over the border, essentially ruling that NH would authorize interstate commerce. According to the Portland Press Herald, “In his ruling, McNamara rejected the state’s argument that allowing Horan to possess marijuana from Maine would destroy the tight distribution controls lawmakers envisioned in passing the law. He noted that the law allows visitors from other states to obtain marijuana in New Hampshire, suggesting that lawmakers knew other states would have similar provisions.”
At 4:30 PM the day before Horan was scheduled to drive to Maine, the NH Attorney General advised DHHS to authorize patient cards for all qualifying NH residents.
While McNamara is not a federal judge, it will be interesting to see what kind of a precedent this may set for future cases, particularly as Oregon’s adult use market comes online, immediately next to Washington State. While all eyes have been watching whether interstate commerce would be allowed there under the Cole Memo which requires legal states prevent diversion to non-legal states, a dying woman’s last wish for non-opiate palliative care may have just cleared the path for interstate commerce between legal, neighboring states.
For Horan’s part, she says, “I’m over the moon.”
Read more about Horan’s story at the Concord Monitor.