Minn. Gov. Won’t Support MMJ Unless Cops Do

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Minnesota’s governor continues to stand in the way of medical marijuana despite strong public support for it in the state.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, reaffirmed his position that he won’t sign any MMJ bill that isn’t backed by the state’s major law enforcement groups. Dayton urged medical pot advocates to work with opponents in law enforcement and said he would support a compromise between them.

“I’ve said I will sign something that the law enforcement community can support,” Dayton said Dec. 27. “It seems to me incumbent on those who are advocating legalization of medical marijuana to be engaged in discussion with law enforcement on how they can accomplish that.”

mark dayton marijuana
Minnesota Governor, Mark Dayton

The problem with Dayton’s position is that it serves as an effective veto of any medical cannabis legislation in Minnesota, and he knows it. No major police organization will support the legalization of marijuana or the loosening of restrictions on its use in the foreseeable future. These groups have made this patently clear.

A growing number of cops favor reform, including members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), but the big guns in the lobbying world still aim in the opposite direction. In California, for example, the Narcotics Officers Association has fought tenaciously for years to kill the state’s 17-year-old medical pot law, despite a repeated record of failure.

Dayton said he sat down with representatives of medical cannabis and law enforcement two months ago and pressed both sides to find middle ground. But that’s easier said than done when one side simply refuses to compromise on anything.

“They oppose everything at this point,” said state Rep. Carly Melin, a Democrat and one of the key backers of medical weed in the Minnesota Legislature.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, Minnesota’s branch of the Democratic Party, dominates state government, having taken the governor’s mansion and Legislature back from anti-pot Republicans in 2012. More than 65 percent of Minnesotans want medical marijuana to become law in the state, according to a poll conducted early in 2013.

And medical marijuana has already swept half the country. It’s now available in 20 states, two of which also allow recreational weed for adults.

Conditions would seem to be ideal for reform in Minnesota. Two bills are pending, one sponsored by 35 state representatives, the other by five senators. Passage is likely in 2014, just five years after former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, vetoed an earlier bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana.

But Dayton’s stubborn insistence that cops sign off first effectively puts a major public policy decision at the whim of private police lobbying groups. It also ensures patients in Minnesota won’t get their medicine anytime soon.

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