Minn. Lawmakers Agree on Medical Marijuana Bill Backed by Dayton

Updated: 05/16/2014 7:39 AM
Created: 05/15/2014 12:43 PM

Minnesota lawmakers have a deal on a medical marijuana bill that would set up eight distribution sites and allow qualified patients to access the drug in oil, pill and vapor form.
The agreement announced Thursday was crafted to suit concerns of Gov. Mark Dayton, who backs it.
The compromise bridges differences between a restrictive House bill and a relatively expansive Senate bill. Under the agreement, two manufacturers would be able to grow the drugs and run a total of eight distribution centers.
Leaf or plant form of marijuana wouldn't be accessible. Smoking the drug wouldn't be permitted.
It represents the culmination of a years-long effort by advocates to make the medical use of marijuana legal in Minnesota. Twenty-one other states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana.


Gov. Mark Dayton released the following statement after the deal was announced:
"This bill is citizen government at its best. It has been led by parents, who deeply love their children, are anguished by their pain, and insist their government try to help them. As a father and grandfather, I both understand and admire their devotion.
"I also congratulate the bill's authors, Representative Carly Melin and Senator Scott Dibble, for their extraordinary efforts. I thank them for their willingness to bring together groups with very different perspectives and to work with them to achieve this result.
"Finally, I want to credit Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, who added his invaluable medical and public health expertise to the bill's final deliberations.
"I look forward to signing this bill into law. And I pledge that my administration, led by Dr. Ehlinger, will do everything possible to implement it as swiftly and successfully, as is possible."

Despite any action a state takes, on the federal level, marijuana is still treated just like heroin and other narcotics.

That means the money that comes in and out of marijuana-related businesses is treated like drug money, and any bank that deals in drug money could be prosecuted for money laundering.

So, many pot-related businesses have been frozen out of the banking system, forced to operate entirely in cash. That has created serious security issues.

In February, the Obama Administration tried giving banks leeway, as long as they closely monitor business activity. Most banks aren't budging unless federal law changes.         

Colorado is close to setting up co-ops, like credit unions, just for pot businesses. The feds might not sign off on them.

The Minnesota Bankers Association says it is concerned about what will happen in Minnesota.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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