Three years after the state gave its OK and more than two years after Temescal Wellness announced plans to site a medical cannabis dispensary in Keene, Monadnock Region patients who qualify now have access to relief without an hours-long trip.
The facility was announced in January of 2019, to open later that year. Somehow it took more than two years to come to fruition, debuting April 17. Its operators told The Sentinel the first few weeks saw brisk business.
It’s no wonder.
A long trip has been part of the deal for local patients since the state approved medical marijuana and licensed four dispensaries. For the Monadnock Region, the closest dispensaries have been in Merrimack, almost 50 miles from Keene, and in Lebanon, nearly 70 miles from the Elm City. That’s a long trip for those suffering from the types of ailments the state allows cannabis to be used to treat. Frequently, it’s used to alleviate pain, and those with debilitating illnesses — the list of qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana card includes cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, lupus, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries — can ill afford a lengthy drive. From the center of Winchester, both the Merrimack and Lebanon dispensaries are nearly a three-hour round trip.
Credit lawmakers — especially Keene Sen. Jay Kahn — for listening to those forced to make the long trips and acting accordingly. The law was to have allowed a new facility to help those in the northern part of the state — in Grafton, Coos and Carroll counties. But Kahn pushed to add the option of another in Cheshire or Sullivan counties.
That law was signed May 30, 2018. It’s been a long three years for those in need of relief. But that’s been the story of medical marijuana in New Hampshire. The Legislature passed the law allowing it in 2013, but it took more than three years for the state to get its details worked out and regulations in place to issue licenses.
During that time, Alstead’s Linda Horan, suffering late-stage lung cancer, was forced to sue the state for permission to obtain medical marijuana in Maine, which was willing to allow it, because of the Granite State’s delay. By the time the Supreme Court’s ruling went into effect, she was able to make a single trip to Maine for the drug before dying in early 2016. After her death, the state still tried to keep anyone in a similar situation from obtaining medical marijuana in other states.
It was not one of the state’s better moments and has continued to look even worse as lawmakers here and elsewhere have further loosened marijuana laws. For the past several years, there’s been a strong push in Concord to legalize the drug for recreational use as well.
We’re not sure what the ramifications of such a move would be for those suffering from the chronic pain and other conditions helped by cannabis. Massachusetts and Vermont have already legalized the drug, and no doubt some patients will look for the cheapest alternative, legal or not.
But we do know this: Having a legal, vetted alternative locally can’t be seen as anything but good news.