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MN lawmakers hear witnesses praise medical marijuana

ST. PAUL — Seven-year-old Amelia Beaver provided an example about why some Minnesotans want patients with severe illnesses to have access to marijuana.

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The girl suffered a seizure, one of about 30 she suffers a day, while her mother told the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Policy Committee on Tuesday night that marijuana could help her daughter.

“It would be the best day of my life if I could hear my daughter say ‘momma’ again,” Angie Beaver of Hibbing said, adding that there is evidence that marijuana can help some patients regain speech and reduce seizures.

The Beavers were among those who told committee members that marijuana can fight intense pain and improve other medical issues.

A vote was expected late Tuesday or early today.

If the bill moves on, it must go to a variety of other legislative committees. Chairwoman Tina Liebling, D-Rochester, only accepted health-related testimony Tuesday, banning comments about public safety or law enforcement issues that should come up in front of other panels.

Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing, said her bill would allow “legal, safe and regulated treatment for patients who need it.”

A parade of medical marijuana supporters talked to committee members.

Beaver and her husband, Josh, sat with their daughter in the committee room while she had a brief seizure in front of the panel.

Amelia was born normal, her mother said, but after 2½ years she “lost the ability to talk and communicate.”

Angie Beaver said children in similar situations have regained some use of their voices after using marijuana. The substance also can help reduce seizures, Beaver said.

“I cannot tell you what seizure control means,” she said. “You have a life.”

Joni Whiting of Jordan told about her daughter, who at age 24 developed skin cancer.

When the young woman began to use marijuana, against the law, her symptoms eased.

“I would rather spend the rest of my life in prison than to deny her the marijuana that kept her pain at bay,” Whiting said.

Marijuana kept her daughter alive 89 more days, Whiting said.

“For this government to deny those who need medical marijuana to lessen the severity of their pain, nausea and seizures is unjustifiable,” Whiting said. “To threaten the sick and dying, and their loved ones, with jail is unconscionable.”

Maria Botker came from western Minnesota’s Big Stone County to tell the story of her youngest daughter, Greta, 7, who now lives in Colorado with her father so she can use marijuana to ease her seizures. She is improving by using a liquid form of marijuana, her mother said.

“She does not get stoned, she does not get high ...” Botker said. “This is so not dangerous to our society.”

Patrick McClellan said he takes 26 pills a day, but only inhaling vaporized marijuana allows him to deal with his muscular dystrophy.

“A very small amount of cannabis works 100 percent of the time,” McClellan said.

Melin’s bill would allow a patient who has a doctor’s permission to have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Someone allowed to cultivate marijuana for his or her own use could have six plants in a locked facility.

Only a person with a “debilitating medical condition” could use marijuana under the bill.

Marijuana could not be used on school property or smoked in any public place.

Gov. Mark Dayton says he will not sign a medical marijuana bill unless law enforcement organizations endorse it.

Doctors are split on the issue.

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.