Marijuana in flower at a Denver indoor medical marijuana grow in March 2013. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

She’s dying of cancer and fighting in court for medical marijuana access

CONCORD, N.H. — Linda Horan, diagnosed in July with late-stage lung cancer, says she may be dead before New Hampshire opens its first medical marijuana dispensaries early next year.

She wants a judge to order the state to grant her a medical marijuana identification card now so she can buy marijuana legally in Maine. But a judge on Thursday postponed a ruling on her request.

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Horan didn’t testify at the hearing, but she said later that she’s frustrated and called it “nonsense” that the state doesn’t have dispensaries up and running more than two years after the law legalizing medical marijuana was passed in 2013.

“A lot of people who would have benefited have since passed on,” she said. “The clock is ticking on me. I don’t have a lot of time.”

Late-stage cancer patient in court fight to get medical marijuana access
Cancer patient Linda Horan arrives with her lawyer Paul Twomey for a hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court on Nov. 12, 2015, in Concord, N.H. Horan, who has been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer, seeks a court order to provide her a medical marijuana identification card before dispensaries open next year in New Hampshire. (Lynne Tuohy, The Associated Press)

The Alstead resident filed a lawsuit against the commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month, seeking an emergency order forcing the agency to issue her a card before dispensaries are open. According to her lawsuit, all five of her doctors have determined she qualifies for medical marijuana to help with anxiety, lack of sleep and nausea that has led to her weight dropping to under 100 pounds.

Lawyers for Health and Human Services argued Thursday that the agency has to balance the patient’s need to obtain medical marijuana with the state’s need to control its distribution at its alternative treatment centers.

“New Hampshire should not have to abandon its protocol and its plan because Maine is a step ahead,” Assistant Attorney General Francis Fredericks argued Thursday in Merrimack County Superior Court. He said New Hampshire dispensaries should be open by March.

Maine will dispense marijuana to patients who have registry cards in their home states. Horan’s lawyer, Paul Twomey, said the card also would protect her from being criminally charged with marijuana possession in New Hampshire.

Maine has had a medical marijuana law since 2009.

Twomey told Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara that he will provide him with an affidavit from a Maine dispensary operator saying Horan could legally obtain marijuana there if she has a New Hampshire card. He said he also will give the judge all Maine laws and regulations pertaining to medical marijuana in that state.

He said New Hampshire officials could approve Horan’s application for a medical marijuana card before the end of the month, but officials have no intention of distributing the cards until the treatment centers are open.

“I want the state to stop dragging your feet over a technicality when you’re dealing with sick people,” Horan said. “We don’t have the time to fool around.”

Horan, a retired telephone worker and longtime labor activist, said that without access to medical marijuana, she would have to resort to prescription opiates “and I would not be awake and aware.”

McNamara did not indicate when he will rule. He gave both sides until Nov. 19 to file documents on whether Horan could use a New Hampshire registry identification card to legally obtain marijuana from out-of-state dispensaries.