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House leaders offer marijuana compromise

May 1, 2014
Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democratic leaders in the Minnesota House on Thursday proposed a limited clinical trial for medical marijuana, a compromise proposal that they said is unopposed by law enforcement.

Their proposal would allow children and adults suffering from severe illnesses to use medical marijuana, with the option of a state source for the drug if no federal source is available. It specifies that the drug could not be smoked, a key concern of police groups. If used in leaf form, the proposal says, it could be done only through medically supervised delivery by vaporizer.

Supporters said the proposal builds on one put forth by Gov. Mark Dayton earlier this session by guaranteeing that medication will be available even if no federal clinical trial is approved.

A push to legalize medical marijuana has been blocked this session largely by opposition from law enforcement. Dayton has wanted their approval and came forward with his clinical trial proposal when that didn't happen. Supporters of medical marijuana fell out with the governor after he offered that proposal.

"It is by no means a perfect approach," said Rep. Carly Melin, a Hibbing DFLer who has led the push to legalize medical marijuana. But Melin said it was rooted in "political reality" and aimed at addressing the most imminent needs. She said it would still result in "real help for families."

Angela Weaver, 32, a Hibbing woman whose 7-year-old daughter suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, welcomed the proposal.

"We are so grateful for this compromise bill because Amelia can't wait any longer," she said. "If we don't pass this bill we will be moving to Colorado. Amelia can't suffer anymore."

House Speaker Scott Thissen said he has spoken with Dayton, whom he said is looking seriously at it.

"It's a deal that the parents can be supportive of and law enforcement is not opposed to," Thissen said.

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy said it will get at least one committee hearing in coming days. Several Senate committees have advanced a medical marijuana proposal in the past week.

Legalizing medical marijuana has had an up-and-down road this session.

Besides law enforcement groups, Dayton's health and human services commissioners have opposed it. Law enforcement groups say marijuana is a dangerous drug that would be used more widely if it became allowed for medical use.

Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger and many doctors say no good data exists to prove the drug's medical effectiveness. And Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said marijuana is addictive and can harm young brains.

But other doctors, scientists, several Minnesota lawmakers and parents of ill children argue that years of evidence exists from many states where medical marijuana is legal that the drug relieves disease symptoms when no other medicine does.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, revived the proposal last month after Dayton challenged state lawmakers who "have hidden behind their desks" while he took the heat for his efforts reconciling the two sides.



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