Pubdate: Thu, 13 Mar 2014
Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
Copyright: 2014 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


Most political observers agreed that legalizing marijuana for medical
purposes faced a tough fight in this year's legislative session,
especially after Gov. Mark Dayton said he wouldn't sign the bill
without the support of the law enforcement community.

But the landscape of the issue changed briefly last week when the
Minnesota Law Enforcement Coalition said it was open to discussing
medical marijuana becoming legal in extract form. The coalition, which
represents the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the
Minnesota Sheriffs Association, the Minnesota Chief of Police
Association and the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, announced
a list of acceptable conditions for medical use of marijuana.

The list encouraged legislators to limit medical marijuana to patients
with "seizures, late stage cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis or
AIDS." The coalition also wants to restrict the use of marijuana to
extracts such as pills, liquids and vapor. It would not allow smoking
of marijuana, even though that's how the majority of medical patients
use it.

Rep. Carly Melin, a DFLer from Hibbing who is chief sponsor of the
House medical marijuana legislation, incorporated most of those
conditions into the most-recent version of her bill, yet she still
couldn't get law enforcement officials to support it. Melin declared a
stalemate on Tuesday and postponed a Government Operations Committee
hearing to discuss medical marijuana.

"Law enforcement won't support any bill that would result in helping
any patients," Melin said. "The governor has to get involved."

We agree that it's time for Dayton to join the negotiations. The issue
has been at a five-year standstill since the Legislature voted to
legalize medical marijuana in 2009, only to see Gov. Tim Pawlenty veto
the bill. He, too, cited law enforcement concerns.

With two months left in the session, Dayton said there's plenty of
time "to negotiate the legitimate concerns of not only law enforcement
officers, but also many medical, mental health and other experts." But
two months isn't a lot of time, not in an election year when
legislators aren't eager to deal with such a controversial issue.
Melin has made a good-faith effort to address law-enforcement
concerns, and we think her bill should be debated on its merits.

It's understandable that law enforcement is reluctant to get behind
any medical marijuana bill. After all, marijuana possession and use
remains a federal crime, so it's unlikely that sheriffs and police
chiefs are going to be strong supporters of legalization, even for
medical purposes.

But Dayton has essentially given veto power to the law enforcement
community, a group that is tasked with enforcing laws, not making them.

The key question to us is quite clear: Does marijuana have medical
benefits that outweigh its risks, side effects and potential for
abuse? If so, then Melin's proposal to limit medical marijuana to
extract form, rather than smoking the plant, should provide a barrier
to keep marijuana from easily getting into the hands of recreational

Furthermore, we'd argue that if the possibility of abuse is grounds
for keeping a drug off the market, then we'd have to ban virtually
every prescription pain reliever, attention-deficit drug or sleeping
pill. Hundreds of legally available drugs are being abused today,
resulting in thousands of deaths each year, but those drugs remain on
the market.

So have the debate. Listen to the medical experts. Look at the
research. Give law enforcement officials a seat at the discussion
table, but then allow legislators to do their jobs.

And if they decide that some limited form of medical marijuana is
right for Minnesota, then Gov. Dayton should sign or veto the bill
based on his own views.  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D