May 9, 2024

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Celebrating 5-year ‘cannaversary’

3 min read

Matt Simon, once a nerdy college freshman who made fun of his friends for smoking weed, has led New Hampshire charges of changing the state’s marijuana laws.

As the State House lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project, he wore ties and an orange badge as he spoke eloquently before committee after committee after committee about its misery-reducing benefits.

Gradually, year after year, more lawmakers listened and made marijuana legal for medical purposes five years ago. New Hampshire has also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis, but is surrounded by other states that have fully legalized it.

It’s a change worth celebrating. On Saturday, Simon and his new boss, Keenan Blum, are holding a Cannaversary at Chichester’s Prime Alternative Treatment Center on Dover Street, celebrating five years since medicinal weed got out of the state’s rigidity and finally became law.

Simon has accepted a new position as Director of Public and Government Relations for Prime ATC of New Hampshire, which operates the Chichester Pharmacy and one in Merrimack. The Saturday party takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with pizza, music and teaching material. Simon and Blum, the CEO, will take turns sitting on a Dunktank.

The New Hampshire medical marijuana industry has not done a good job of reassuring people and reaching the public. The juvenile delinquent, will-to-other-drug label that has been attributed to the pot since the 19th century remains fresh for many people.

“We were good neighbors and there was criticism years ago,” says Simon, who lives in Goffstown. “We’re not doing well telling people who we are and what we do. You can talk to the production staff and it’s an opportunity to show the public that this is a responsible program that serves the patients in the local communities. “

This is a huge part of Simon’s life. At least it turned into that in a two-step process.

First, after years of resistance, Simon smoked weed with friends on a camping trip after his freshman year of college. And only after he tirelessly researched what exactly cannabis did to the body. And for the body. And the mind.

Next there were two of the places Simon lived: He grew up in West Virginia, in a town called Parkersburg. He taught English at a community college in rural Kentucky.

And over time, he began to hear and read media reports calling Oxycontin – which was spreading its death grip at a frightening rate 15 years ago – called hillbilly heroin.

“There was an epidemic in the area,” said Simon. “I witnessed the ugly days from the front row, and that confirmed my philosophical belief that the war on drugs had some negative consequences. That led me on this path. “

He moved to New Hampshire 14 years ago in search of a little more scenic beauty in his life and entry into politics. We were perfect.

“Every bill gets a public hearing and there are presidential primaries,” said Simon. “It was a good place for advocacy. I didn’t think I would do this for so long. It became my life. “

Simon did his homework. He couldn’t get over the fact that alcohol was legal, but smoking cannabis resulted in incarceration. He learned about the benefits of smoking weed, the sweet relief it creates when chemo and radiation stifle appetite and prohibit eating from staying down, and when pain and cramps caused by multiple sclerosis would not stop.

Next, Simon went out and found these people, these patients, these cannabis smokers. He took her to the State House, 15 or 20 at a time. He introduced them and they told the lawmakers how their lives had changed since they asked for help.

“They all had a treatment that was unimaginable,” says Simon. or it has terrible side effects. “

Simon kept coming back until the law changed. However, some of these patients died before they could legally smoke marijuana in New Hampshire.

The party on Saturday is for them.