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MN doctors differ over medical marijuana

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ST. PAUL — There’s no one view among doctors about whether Minnesota should legalize medical marijuana.

In one camp, there are physicians like Dr. Jacob Mirman, a primary care doctor in St. Louis Park who says a few patients have told him they use marijuana to cope with medical conditions.

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Mirman hasn’t personally recommended that patients use it, and doesn’t take a position on the specifics of a bill currently advancing at the Capitol. But he supports the idea of making medical marijuana legal — in part because the risks seem small compared to those with some prescription painkillers.

“It’s not fair to put (patients) in a position where they have to break the law to actually get relief from their condition,” Mirman said.

But physicians like Dr. Carrie Borchardt, president of the Minnesota Psychiatric Society, say they’re strongly against the idea. The experience in states that have legalized medical marijuana shows an increased risk of addiction, Borchardt said, plus use by patients with pain and anxiety complaints that can be faked.

“It appears that there is a lot of recreational use under the guise of medical marijuana,” she said.

As debate continues within the medical profession, the state’s leading lobbying group for physicians is quickly trying to develop a position on medical marijuana legislation that’s advancing at the Capitol.

A bill from Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, would allow patients with certain debilitating health conditions access to medical marijuana, as long as a doctor or designated health care professional certified that patients were likely to benefit.

With sponsors from both the Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican parties, the bill would make marijuana available to people with conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder. It also could be an option for people with conditions that result in severe pain, nausea or seizures.

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