Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

July 26, 2013

New Hampshire has joined 18 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana. Governor Maggie Hassan signed a law authorizing the therapeutic use of marijuana on July 23, and it took effect immediately. With the signing of the New Hampshire law, all six New England states now have legalization laws to permit medical marijuana use. However, none of these laws authorize medical marijuana use or possession in the workplace.

Under the New Hamsphire measure, patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease and other approved serious illnesses must be issued special identification cards to possess a maximum of two ounces of the drug. To qualify for medical marijuana use, state residents will have to meet the following requirements:

  • Be a patient of the prescribing doctor for at least 90 days;
  • Have tried other remedies; and
  • Exhibited certain symptoms.

The law adds that its purpose is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions. It specifically allows registered patients to obtain marijuana from four nonprofit, state-licensed alternative treatment centers in the state. However, it does not permit patients to grow marijuana at home. 2013 Bill Tracking NH H.B. 573.

Federal law continues to prohibit marijuana use, whether medicinal or otherwise. However, the New Hampshire law addresses that conflict by noting that "states are not required to enforce federal law or prosecute people for engaging in activities prohibited by federal law."

In a statement, Governor Hassan said, "I have always maintained that allowing doctors to provide relief to patients through the use of appropriately regulated and dispensed medical marijuana is the compassionate and right policy for the State of New Hampshire."

A recent XpertHR podcast examines the trend of state marijuana legalization laws and what they mean for employer drug testing policies as well as workplace accommodations. Two states, Colorado and Washington, took the additional step of legalizing recreational marijuana use for individuals 21 and older through ballot initiatives in November 2012.