Medical marijuana debate returns to Minnesota Capitol - KMSP-TV

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Medical marijuana debate returns to Minnesota Capitol

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

On Tuesday night, Minnesota lawmakers will once again consider whether residents should be allowed to legally smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Introduction and testimony for the Minnesota Medical Marijuana Bill (H.F.1818) was originally scheduled for 2:15 p.m., but the House Health and Human Services Committee pushed it back until 6 p.m.

The committee voted to move the bill forward late on Tuesday night with only one amendment regarding smokeless distribution failing to win lawmaker approval.

WHO WOULD BE AFFECTED?

Only Minnesotans with certain health conditions would be legally able to obtain marijuana expressly for medicinal use, including those with:

- Cancer
- Glaucoma
- Hepatitis C
- HIV/AIDS
- PTSD
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Tourette Syndrome

The bill also allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana to treat other conditions.

HOW WOULD IT WORK?

If the current bill is passed, patients who receive a doctor's permission to use marijuana would have two options to get it:

1. Buy from a state-licensed organization.
2. Grow up to 12 plants themselves.

The bill also requires patients to keep marijuana in an enclosed, locked facility and imposes a harvest limit of up to 2.5 usable ounces at a time.

On Tuesday night, an amendment was proposed that could reduce the number of plants a patient or caregiver could possess, bringing the number down from 12 plants to 6.

PRIOR VETO

A similar bill faced a veto by then-Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty after it was passed by lawmakers in 2009.

Read more: Medical marijuana bill outlined, debate on hold until 2014

Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) introduced the House version of the bill last year.

COULD DAYTON VETO TOO?

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he won't sign any bill unless it has support from law enforcement groups, but Rep. Tina Liebling (D-Rochester) made it clear she hopes she will reconsider, especially considering the amount of interest in the Legislature.

"Unfortunately, the governor has given law enforcement a veto power over it. I hope he'll reconsider that when he sees the evidence of what it means for Minnesotans to have this as a health matter," she said.

ARE POLICE ON BOARD?

When Minnesota lawmakers grappled with the issue in the past, law enforcement agencies across the state have consistently been opposed; however, Liebling is now asking police agencies to cooperate on the effort.

"We don't let law enforcement set our medical policy. That's what it really comes down to," she remarked. "If this is appropriate medically, then I think law enforcement should work for the state and help us figure out how to reach our goals and not simply block our goals."

Law enforcement agencies remain concerned the bill could create a free-for-all environment with a substance that has been considered an illegal drug for decades.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Now that the bill has cleared its first hearing, it must make it through several other House committees before it can move to the floor for a vote.

The civil and public safety committees are next, and both could present a major hurdle to passage.

WHERE IS IT LEGAL?

Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

-Alaska
-Arizona
-California
-Colorado*
-Connecticut
-D.C.
-Delaware
-Hawaii
-Illinois
-Massachusetts
-Michigan
-Montana
-Nevada
-New Hampshire
-New Jersey
-New Mexico
-Oregon
-Rhode Island
-Vermont
-Washington*

NOTE: Marijuana is also legal for recreational use in both Colorado and Washington.

Read more: Colorado marijuana users celebrate first day of legal sales

PUBLIC TESTIMONY

Public testimony began at 6 p.m. and included a presentation from the mother of 7-year-old Amelia Weaver, who suffered a seizure while her mother told lawmakers how medical marijuana could help her cope with a rare form of epilepsy.

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