New Medical Marijuana Proposal in Minnesota Divides Supporters

Updated: 05/01/2014 6:41 PM
Created: 05/01/2014 6:34 PM
By: Tom Hauser

DFL leaders in the Minnesota House hail a new proposal for legalizing medical marijuana as a compromise that could allow passage of a bill this year. However, at least one advocate for medical marijuana calls the proposal "horrifying."

The proposed bill to be authored by Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, is a scaled-back version of her original bill that would have given doctors the ability to prescribe medical marijuana. Her new bill would create a "medical cannabis clinical trial" for children and adults who suffer from seizures or severe illness. "It's a compromise on the medical marijuana bill," Melin said at a State Capitol news conference. "A compromise that we think can help us move forward this session."

The proposal would authorize one Minnesota-based manufacturer of medical marijuana only in oil, pill or vaporized form. Smoking marijuana would not be allowed. That's a move aimed at keeping law enforcement organizations from opposing the bill. People suffering from seizures, cancer, glaucoma, HIV/Aids, Tourette syndrome, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis and Crohn's disease would be eligible for the trials.

Joni Whiting's 26-year-old daughter died of cancer in 2003, but she was forced to smoke marijuana illegally to ease her pain. Whiting continues to fight for legalization on her late daughter's behalf and will not support the new House proposal. "Honestly, I am horrified," she told reporters in the hallway outside the news conference.

An advocacy group, "Minnesotans for Compassionate Care," also opposes the House proposal. "This proposal will not provide medication to any patients in Minnesota," said Heather Azzi, political director for the organization. She said it would strictly limit who can participate in clinical trials and require patients to travel to doctors' offices and be supervised every time they use the cannabis-based medicine.

The House proposal does have a chance to keep law enforcement from actively opposing the bill. John Kingrey of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association says he's studying the proposal, but says it's similar to other proposals they've supported.

The House proposal will be heard by the House Rules Committee Friday morning. A separate, more expansive, medical marijuana bill is moving through the Senate.

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