New Hampshire to begin issuing medical marijuana ID cards

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire patients who qualify for medical marijuana will begin receiving identification cards needed to legally purchase and possess cannabis as early as next week.

State health officials say they'll begin issuing the cards Monday. New Hampshire's medical marijuana dispensaries won't begin operating until the spring. More than 100 people have applied for the cards, which allow qualifying patients and their caregivers to possess up to two ounces of marijuana. That means they can purchase marijuana in states that allow out-of-state residents with ID cards to buy it — such as Maine — before New Hampshire's dispensaries open and without fear of facing charges.

New Hampshire's Legislature approved medical marijuana in 2013, and advocates for the program say it's taken the state too long to give people access to the drug.

Four dispensaries are scheduled to open across the state next year. The state initially planned not to give out identification cards until the dispensaries opened, but changed course after a woman with terminal cancer sued the state for access to an identification card. Linda Horan, an Alstead resident with late-stage lung cancer, argued in court that she may not live long enough to see the state's medical marijuana dispensaries open.

The judge ruled in Horan's favor, and she traveled to Maine last week to buy marijuana with her new ID card. The decision prompted the attorney general to advise the state to give out cards before New Hampshire's dispensaries open.

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