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Northeast states high on medical marijuana

Now Delaware has joined a handful of Northeastern states considering legalizing the medical use of marijuana.

Now Delaware has joined a handful of Northeastern states considering legalizing the medical use of marijuana.

To say the issue is smoking hot would an exaggeration.

Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island are among 13 states nationwide that have approved medical use of marijuana, but no Northeast state has joined their ranks since 2006.

Clearly, though, regional interest in the issue has been gaining momentum.

New Hampshire would become the 14th state with such a law if Gov. John Lynch signs a bill that the legislature passed last month.

On Tuesday, the New York Senate's Health Committee passed along a bill to that would let registered patients or caregivers possess and grow limited amounts of pot. An Assembly committee is weighing the same legislation.

On April 20, State Rep. Mark Cohen (D., Phila.) and six other sponsors introduced a bill in Harrisburg. House Bill 1393 - the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act - is before the Health and Human Services Committee.

Patients and caregivers with registration cards would be permitted to possess one ounce of marijuana and grow six plants, and "compassion centers" could be established for dispensing the drug.

Federal agents will no longer raid such establishments, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declared in late February.

In New Jersey, a bill passed by the Senate is in the hands of the Assembly's Health and Senior Services Committee.

State Attorney General Anne Milgram last month called the plan "workable," and Gov. Corzine has said he would sign the bill.

In Delaware, Senate Bill 94, introduced May 13, would allow registered citizens to have six ounces of marijuana, and permit licensed "compassion centers" to grow and sell it.

In addition, on May 18 the Rhode Island legislature passed a bill that would set up dispensaries. Current law allows patients to use marijuana but provides no legal means for them to get it.

Gov. Donald Carcieri might veto the bill, but the legislature seems to have the votes for an override, according to the Providence Journal.

Besides Rhode Island, Vermont and Maine, the other states that have legalized medical use of marijuana are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

Minnesota could have become state No. 14, but last week Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that applied just to the terminally ill.

Illinois may be the only other state with pending legislation. On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill and sent it to the House.