At first glance, the addition of New Hampshire to the list of states with medical marijuana laws doesn’t seem that earth-shattering for the national cannabis industry.
As Medical Marijuana Business Daily reported last week, the overall New Hampshire cannabis market will be tiny (assuming the legislature officially passes the bill this Wednesday, as expected): up to four dispensaries, an estimated $2 million to $3 million in annual sales and around 1,000 patients.
That’s small potatoes compared to nearly every other MMJ state, leading to a collective shrug from some industry professional.
But you have to look beyond the limited business opportunities and low dollar figures to find the real national impact.
New Hampshire is poised to become the 20th US state with medical marijuana laws, moving the industry one step closer to a key goal: the halfway point. Getting 25 states in the nation to join the MMJ bandwagon could be the tipping point that forces change at the federal level.
Many industry leaders say hitting this benchmark will give the movement more clout and help sway on-the-fence lawmakers in Congress, which could bring about fundamental changes in how the US government approaches medical cannabis. The ripple effects could be huge: The government might finally cave into pressure to help the industry when it comes to banking, taxes and other important issues. Eventually, it could reclassify marijuana, legitimizing the drug an acknowledging that it does have health benefits.
As it stands now, the 19 states that already have medical marijuana laws in place account for about a third of the US population. New Hampshire (pop.1.3 million) will move that needle a little bit.
Going forward, the key will be to get several highly populous (and therefore influential) states on the medical marijuana list. Three of the most promising that fit the bill: Illinois, New York and Ohio, which combined represent 45 million residents. Illinois could be the first of the three, as a measure has already passed the legislature and now sits on the governor’s desk. Efforts are underway in Ohio to gather the signatures needed to put an MMJ measure on the 2014 ballot.
And then there’s New York, where a once-promising bill has stalled. The measure didn’t make it to a Senate hearing in the latest session, which wrapped up last week. Lawmakers could be called back in at any time, so the bill isn’t completely dead in the water according to some observers.
But at this point the odds are slim. It would be a disappointing end to a bill that had a lot of momentum. The New York Assembly overwhelmingly passed a companion measure, and the lawmaker behind the Senate version was very optimistic about its chances just a few weeks ago.
Some cannabis supporters, however, are pleased to see the ultra-strict MMJ bill die. Noah Potter, who runs a blog that examines legal issues tied to cannabis and other drugs, said the bill asks for “too little” and is “too apologetic when the correct position is that cannabis prohibition is a mistake that must be corrected.”
“It’s not about pleading for the favor of reform,” he said, adding that he is hopeful plans by one senator to introduce a bill calling for full adult legalization come to fruition.
Still, it appears the question is when – not if – in New York, as public support is strong and more lawmakers are coming around to the idea.
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