Pubdate: Sat, 22 Feb 2014
Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
Copyright: 2014 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
Author: Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio News
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


ST. PAUL -- Supporters of Legislation to legalize medical marijuana 
in Minnesota are considering a new approach for the 2014 session, and 
the potential changes are winning the backing of some law enforcement groups.

State Rep. Carly Melin, the chief author of the bill in the Minnesota 
House is working on a much narrower proposal that would allow only 
the use of some non-narcotic, marijuana-derived chemicals.

Medical marijuana advocates have faced unyielding opposition from the 
state's big law enforcement organizations, and Gov. Mark Dayton has 
repeatedly said he won't sign a bill that those groups oppose. But 
Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said law enforcement is now showing some interest 
in a compromise version of her bill, which she thinks the governor 
could eventually sign.

"They want to limit it to pills or liquid-form consumption, rather 
than the traditional inhalation of marijuana or what you would 
consider smoking marijuana," Melin said. "They want that out of the 
bill entirely. So, we're looking to other states and having 
conversations with patients and the medical community to see what the 
reality is of moving in that direction."

The Minnesota County Attorneys Association remains opposed to medical 
marijuana in its traditional leafy form, largely over concerns about 
its potential use and abuse for non-medical purposes, said its 
executive director, John Kingrey.

But Kingrey said the association's board members decided last month 
that they would be open to a much more narrowly crafted bill.

"We are very sympathetic to those individuals that suffer from 
debilitating conditions," he said. "Marijuana has about 150 compounds 
in it, and if you can distill some of those elements and it does not 
include the THC component and if it is effective to treat certain 
illnesses, we would not be opposed to that."

Kingrey pointed to a recent, similar proposal in Georgia that would 
allow the limited use of a cannabis oil for the treatment seizure disorders.

Another longtime opponent of medical marijuana is also showing some 
interest in the proposed new approach. Dennis Flaherty, executive 
director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, said 
a marijuana derivative might be workable, if its distribution is 
limited to a few medical research facilities rather than every doctor.

"It's something that we certainly should talk about," Flaherty said. 
"My membership is not unwilling to be a part of something that can 
provide Minnesota with an alternative to the widespread legalization."

Until now, DFL House and Senate leaders weren't giving medical 
marijuana much of a chance this year. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk 
said a floor vote on the bill in its current form is unlikely. But 
Bakk said a compromise measure could provide some "incremental progress."

"If there are some blends of that that can treat health-related 
illnesses that can't be used for people to alter moods, I think 
that's absolutely worth exploring," said Bakk, DFL-Cook. "I want to 
explore that with the governor and the law enforcement community."

But the concessions needed to win over law enforcement, could come at 
the expense of some medical marijuana advocates. The current bill 
would allow a physician to prescribe medical marijuana in plant form 
for several "debilitating" conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, 
post-traumatic stress disorder and epilepsy. Melin said a move to 
pills and liquid consumption would shorten the list of diseases.

"Obviously any compromise that we reach is going to cut out even more 
people, which I think is disheartening for advocates and 
disheartening for patients," she said. "But we're facing reality 
around here, which is if we can get anything done there's going to 
have to be compromise."

Melin said new bill language could be ready sometime next week. She 
said a hearing will likely come soon in the House Health and Human 
Services Policy Committee.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom