A terminal cancer patient seeking expedited access to medical marijuana filed a lawsuit Thursday in Merrimack County Superior Court against New Hampshire Commissioner of Health and Human Services Nicholas Toumpas. The lawsuit is available at http://mpp.org/HoranLawsuit.
The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for administrating the state's medical marijuana program, which has experienced several delays since Gov. Maggie Hassan signed it into law in July 2013. On Monday, DHHS began accepting applications from patients interested in participating in the program, but they remain at risk of arrest and prosecution until they receive program ID cards. DHHS is refusing to issue ID cards until dispensaries open, which is not expected until 2016.
"The state simply needs to issue me an ID card so that I can access the medicine that I need," said the plaintiff, Linda Horan of Alstead. "It's hard to imagine why it would take more than two years for that. There are seriously ill people throughout New Hampshire who are suffering every day they go without it."
Horan suffers from stage IV lung cancer and filed an application with DHHS after receiving approval from all five of her physicians. Her lawsuit asks that DHHS expedite the process of issuing her an ID card so that she can immediately begin obtaining medical marijuana legally in Maine and using it without fear of arrest and prosecution in New Hampshire.
"Her prognosis is death within months, accompanied by intolerably painful side effects," according to the lawsuit. "She does not wish to spend her last months in a narcotic haze from prescribed opiates, but rather wishes to mitigate her debilitating symptoms to the extent possible through use of therapeutic cannabis for as long as possible."
"Our hope in filing this lawsuit is that it will cause the state to do what is morally, ethically, medically, and legally proper," said Paul Twomey, attorney for Ms. Horan. "We hope that the state will do what the law passed by the legislature mandates, and stop denying critically ill and dying people medicine that has been deemed appropriate by their treating physicians."
Horan pled her case directly to Gov. Hassan on September 7 after receiving a lifetime achievement award during the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast. A video of her statement is available at https://youtu.be/KNj_SwYtWe8?t=3m20s.
"As a lawmaker who voted to treat patients with dignity and respect and allow therapeutic cannabis use, I am dismayed and outraged by the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold the issuance of patient registry cards that allow qualified New Hampshire patients to obtain and use medical marijuana," said Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton).
"I hope the Superior Court will end what I see as cruel treatment of suffering people, uphold the law passed by the legislature 28 months ago and issue an order to the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to issue cards to Linda Horan and every other qualifying patient.
"The legislature does not want Linda Horan or any other patient to die without access to medicinal marijuana."
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The Marijuana Policy Project is the nation's largest marijuana policy organization. For more information, visit http://www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.