Pot Fight Brews in Minnesota

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Minnesota Considering Medical Marijuana Legislation

The Minnesota Legislature is considering a bill that would let doctors prescribe weed to patients with severe conditions. The law has a good chance of passing both houses, which are dominated by Democrats who cleared out a conservative Republican majority in November.

But its ultimate future is far from certain, as Gov. Mark Dayton, also a Democrat, has said he is unlikely to sign any proposal that doesn’t have the fully support of law enforcement – an unlikely outcome. Police groups in the state generally oppose any plan that would make marijuana legal.

And there is a split among supporters of legalization, too. Some, particularly within the governing Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the local equivalent of the Democrats) want to loosen the reins only on medical pot for a strictly limited portion of the patient population.

Others, especially those within the Independence Party, a third party with strong support in the state, want to push for full legalization. They have the support of marijuana advocates in Minnesota, including the local branch of NORML.

Pushing for Legalization in Minnesota

Medical Marijuana in Minnesota
Minnesota law makers are considering medical marijuana legislation.

“Our organization specifically is in favor of full legalization,” said Kurtis Hanna, former executive director of NORML in Minnesota “It’s not pushing for medical marijuana to be legalized. However, we aren’t against medical marijuana. We definitely would like to see it passed. However, we don’t see it as the solution to the problem, the full solution.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), said she thinks talk about recreational pot is getting in the way of medical needs. “The conversation about the full legalization of marijuana really distracts from the message of the importance of medical marijuana,” she said.

Melin’s bill is currently before the Minnesota House. Similar legislation is being considered by the state Senate. This is not the first time the state Legislature has considered medical marijuana, and it may not be the last. Even if the bill passes both houses, Dayton is likely to veto it.

The governor said late last year he wouldn’t sign any marijuana legislation that law enforcement groups oppose. Most police and prosecutors groups in the state take the position that marijuana is a dangerous “gateway” drug that shouldn’t be legalized under any circumstances.

This includes the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, a prosecutors’ group that has vowed to vigorously oppose any medical marijuana law.

Without the support of police and prosecutors the law is almost certain to fail. But it does signal that Minnesota lawmakers are taking medical marijuana more seriously, and that they’re willing to fight their governor to make it legal.

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