Marijuana Proposal Gets Life

By Don Davis

Minnesota state legislators could face a decision this legislative session about whether to approve marijuana for medical use, even though a medical marijuana bill is stalled in the House.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, plans to offer an amendment that would allow medical marijuana. He wants it placed on an overall health bill.

While the health bill was scheduled for Wednesday debate, House leaders are postponing its consideration in light of the Garofalo amendment.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee on  Tuesday scheduled a Thursday morning meeting to discuss the issue.

The chances for a marijuana bill to pass are not clear since both House and Senate versions missed deadlines last month to clear committees. However, lawmakers always have the opportunity to amend provisions onto other bills.

A House committee passed the bill, which stalled in its second committee. No Senate committee has considered the measure this year.

A bill by Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing, is stuck in a committee and Gov. Mark Dayton opposes allowing medical marijuana until law enforcement and medical groups support the concept.

“Support for effective medical marijuana legislation clearly spans the political spectrum,” Heather Azzi of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care said. “It is time to move forward with this compassionate and common-sense proposal. Seriously ill Minnesotans and their families have waited long enough.”

Medical marijuana supporters say it can help ease the pain of seriously ill patients and prevent seizures in children with certain diseases.

Dayton says he supports the concept, but cannot back Melin’s bill until doctors and law enforcement officers remove their opposition.

The governor proposed an extensive medical study of marijuana by Mayo Clinic and a separate study about how medical marijuana has worked in other states.

Opponents say marijuana has not been studied like medicines and that using it can be a gateway to using harder drugs. The federal government outlaws marijuana.

The Garofalo proposal differs from Melin’s in that he would ban smoking and Minnesotans growing the plant. Marijuana extracts could be used as medicine.

Minnesotans could have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to deal with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma and AIDS.

A doctor or physician assistant would be required to authorize marijuana use.

Organizations wishing to grow marijuana would need state approval and submit to state regulations.

While legislators prepare for a possible marijuana vote, the Compassionate Care organization returns to the airwaves with television commercials featuring Patrick McClellan, a Bloomington man who suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

“I don’t understand why Gov. Dayton is blocking a bill that would allow (medical marijuana) for people like me,” McClellan says in the commercial. “I am a patient, not a criminal. We deserve better; Minnesota deserves better.”

Dayton told reporters Tuesday that lawmakers “have hidden behind their desks” and allowed him to take the brunt of criticism on the topic.

The governor urged legislators to take a vote on the issue.