November 19, 2015

Dying Activist’s Battle For Medical Marijuana Now In Judge’s Hands

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Linda Horan is pictured with her friends and advocates, Attorney Paul Twomey, left, and Rep. Renny Cushing, right.

Linda Horan is pictured with her friends and advocates, Attorney Paul Twomey, left, and Rep. Renny Cushing, right.

By Nancy West

Dying labor activist Linda Horan says she will visit Maine for as long as legally required to obtain medical marijuana if a judge rules she can get her New Hampshire patient card before dispensaries open here.

Her lawyer, Paul Twomey, filed court documents Thursday saying Maine Democratic Rep. Diane Russell has invited Horan -- who is in the final stages of terminal lung cancer -- to visit her home. Russell has promised to help Horan any way she can.

At issue is whether Horan, who lives in Alstead, can prove she will be able to get medical marijuana under Maine’s law relative to the length of her stay and purpose of her trip other than to buy cannabis.

In a sworn statement submitted to the court, Horan said she plans to visit friends and meet with people at the dispensaries in Maine during an “extended stay.”

“It is my intent to visit these people to say my goodbyes and to thank them for their support in my life,” Horan wrote.

“I desperately need the medication in order to live the last of my time on earth with a semblance of dignity and my mental processes intact for as long as possible,” Horan wrote.

“I beg the court to follow the law and allow me this basic human right.”

Horan sued the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services arguing she should be able to obtain her patient card and use it in Maine.

New Hampshire lawmakers approved medical marijuana 28 months ago, but the first overdue dispensaries won’t open until about March of 2016.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara issued an order last week stating Horan won’t be able to prove irreparable harm unless she can prove she will be able to obtain medical marijuana in Maine with a New Hampshire patient card. He could issue a ruling any time.

Twomey argued the state’s assertion that it “isn’t sure” Horan will succeed is just not enough to force the question.

“A certainty of success is never attainable — any of us could die at any moment — all that matters here is that with a New Hampshire patient identification card, (Horan) is able to take steps to legally obtain the medicine she critically needs in Maine,” Twomey wrote.

Assistant Attorney General Frank Fredericks, representing DHHS, also filed in court on Thursday.

Fredericks argued that even though cannabis may be available to Horan in Maine under certain circumstances, it “does not alter the fact that New Hampshire law does not contemplate New Hampshire residents obtaining cannabis from sources other than the Alternative Treatment Centers that are certified by New Hampshire DHHS."

The law “demands a controlled system of cannabis distribution in which the state-monitored (Alternative Treatment Centers) - the only entities permitted to dispense cannabis under the statute - are a cornerstone,” Fredericks wrote.

Rep. Russell said Maine requires a 24-hour stay for qualifying out-of-state patients to obtain medical marijuana.

“If she comes and stays more than 24 hours and has a patient card from another state, she can go to a dispensary or caregiver,” Russell said.

Horan would also need a Maine document signed by her New Hampshire provider, Russell said.

“It’s a little complicated, but doable,” Russell said.

In a phone interview, Horan said she has already spoken with Maine authorities who are mailing the required Maine document to her doctor.

Horan said she has been a bit down fighting an infection, but was beginning to feel better.

“I’m going to do whatever the dispensaries require of me,” Horan said. “I’ll follow to the letter of the law.”

State Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, was upset that the state waited until the last minute Thursday to file its pleading.

"I am pretty disgusted about all the resources of the state to crush Linda's effort to be treated with compassion and respect and get the medicine to which the legislature has said she is entitled," Cushing posted on Facebook.

"That the Attorney General's Office waited until the last second to file the state's pleading yesterday felt like the office is trying to run out the clock on Linda, in the hope that she would die before the court deadline and make her lawsuit moot.

"I don't ever want to see another qualifying patient humiliated by the government of New Hampshire the way Linda Horan has been," Cushing said.

Assistant Attorney General Fredericks said Thursday was the deadline.

Fredericks said that is not the case.

“We were not dragging our feet,” he said. “We understand the need for this to be addressed expeditiously.