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As others see it: Tread lightly with medicinal pot

It's a good idea whose time has perhaps come -- but with some very big conditions.

The state Senate has passed, 36-28, a bill that legalizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The House plans to undertake the bill before the session ends on May 18.

While hard and fast data is tough to find -- the FDA said in 2006 that there was no medical use for the drug, a statement that was widely and roundly criticized as bowing to law enforcement pressure -- the anecdotal evidence is powerful. It seems somebody knows someone in one of the dozen or so states that legalized pot's medicinal use and report patients' discomfort is greatly reduced and their appetite increases. And although there is a prescription equivalent of the THC found in marijuana, those who have used both report the prescription drug doesn't have the same effects as the plant.

On the other hand, it is equally hard to ignore the argument put forth by law enforcement -- that marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead to the use of powerful and addicting narcotics. And law enforcement says controlling who has the legal right to smoke pot and who doesn't has been a bit of a nightmare. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency says California law enforcement agencies routinely report large-scale drug traffickers hide behind the shelter of that state's medical marijuana law.

Clearly, the state Legislature must tread lightly here. As many as 70,000 people in the state could get comfort they can't find anywhere else if this bill becomes law. But is that enough to outweigh the possible risk of abuse of the system the state will have to put in place to monitor this program?

Daily News of Faribault