Pubdate: Thu, 06 Mar 2014
Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
Copyright: 2014 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


ST. PAUL -- Mothers tearfully described how their babies suffered as 
many as 100 seizures a day before receiving marijuana treatment as 
they begged lawmakers late Tuesday to legalize the drug for medical 
use in Minnesota.

Others told a state House committee how the drug helped alleviate 
pain and different ailments from suffered from cancer and glaucoma. 
One mother described watching her daughter's face disappear inch by 
inch as surgeons removed malignant melanoma, saying her child's pain 
and lost appetite was relieved only by medicinal marijuana. About 
half a dozen others said it helped their children's seizures.

"This is so not dangerous to our society. It's not," Maria Botker 
testified about pot treatment. "But it is so life-saving for our daughter."

Botker said her husband moved with their daughter to Colorado, where 
medical marijuana is legal, so she could receive treatment after more 
than a dozen medications failed to help. She said her daughter was 
having as many as 100 seizures a day until she started using a type 
of marijuana known as "Charlotte's Web," which doesn't cause a high 
because of low THC levels but has normal levels of CBD, which isn't a 
hallucinogenic but helps with the illness.

She said her daughter, who began suffering seizures when she was 5 
months old, now suffers sometimes only one a day.

The testimony helped convince the House Health and Human Services 
Policy Committee to approve a proposal that would allow doctors to 
prescribe patients marijuana. Those patients would receive a card 
enabling them to buy medicinal marijuana from approved dispensers, or 
patients could grow up to six plants themselves. The bill now goes to 
the House Government Operations Committee.

But the plan faces a long road ahead.

An informal coalition of law enforcement agencies, including county 
attorneys, sheriffs and police, issued a list of requirements for the 
bill, including that marijuana come in only pill, liquid or vapor 
form. The committee narrowly defeated an amendment that would have 
added similar language to the bill.

Champlin Police Chief Dave Kolb, co-chairman of the Minnesota Chiefs 
of Police Association, said law enforcement groups object to any bill 
they view as leading to the expanded use of marijuana.

"If the bill becomes truly medical, we'd be neutral," Kold told The 
Associated Press before Tuesday's hearing.

Opposition from law enforcement was a chief reason why then-Gov. Tim 
Pawlenty vetoed a similar bill in 2009, and Gov. Mark Dayton has 
aligned himself with law enforcement on the current bill.

Kold also said the legislation needs to limit the ailments for which 
marijuana could be prescribed. He named multiple sclerosis and 
glaucoma as examples. Kolb said the bill's current standard of 
debilitating pain was "ripe for abuse."

Autumn Leva, legislative analyst for the Minnesota Family Council, 
testified to that point. She said that since Colorado passed its 
medical-marijuana law in 2000, 94 percent of those receiving 
permission to use marijuana were treated for chronic pain -- not the 
grave illnesses many of those who spoke to the committee Tuesday depicted.

Kolb also said the bill needed to place medical marijuana under a 
pharmacy-dispensing regime comparable to the Minnesota Prescription 
Monitoring Program. That system helps prevent abuse of controlled 
substances such as Percocet, a painkiller.

"If they're going to treat it like a medicine, then treat it like a 
medicine," Kolb said.

Dr. David Thorson, chairman of the Minnesota Medical Association 
board of trustees, said his group hasn't yet taken a position on 
legalizing medical marijuana due to the lack of "evidence that's 
double-blinded to say where marijuana is truly a benefit for a 
variety of illnesses."

But Dr. Suzanne Sisley, a psychiatrist and internist who researches 
medical marijuana at the University of Arizona, said the paucity of 
data is because of one reason: The U.S. government approves projects 
that highlight marijuana's negative effects and blocks those that 
might show its palliative value.

"It makes it almost impossible to do medical-marijuana research," she 
told the committee.

Medical marijuana is allowed in some form in 20 states and Washington, D.C.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom