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Minnesota House could take medical marijuana vote

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ST. PAUL — Minnesota state representatives could face a decision later this legislative session about whether to approve marijuana for medical use, even though a medical marijuana bill is stalled.

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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 debate today, House leaders are postponing its consideration in light of the Garofalo amendment.

A bill by Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing, is stuck in a committee, and Gov. Mark Dayton opposes it 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.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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