On Tuesday evening, the Minnesota Senate took a major step towards legalizing cannabis for medical use in the state by voting to pass a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients with certain health conditions.
Supporters of medical marijuana legislation are anxiously watched the Minnesota Senate as a bill fresh off a Monday passage in committee headed to the full chamber on Tuesday at the Capitol. Shortly after 6 p.m., the measure was passed by a vote of 48-18 after a period of vigorous debate.
WHAT WAS SAID
“Fundamentally members, the question is just that: Do you believe that health decisions aer best made between doctors and patients?” Sen. Branden Peterson asked. “If you believe that, you ought to vote green on the bill.”
“We should probably be OK with snake oil, bloodletting, and the very popular leeching of a patient,” Sen. Warran Limmer argued.
SF 1641, sponsored by Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to people suffering from conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-C, ALS, glaucoma, Tourette’s syndrome and PTSD.
Patients would be issued marijuana ID cards and doctors administering the cannabis would be tracked, as well as the conditions being treated.
Sen. Dibble said the program will pay for itself by fees collected from patients and treatment centers.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R) vigorously attacked the bill, saying it would lead to recreational legislation. A former sheriff, he said that in his background, he’s “seen the devastation of this drug.”
The Minnesota House is working on a medical marijuana bill of its own, although both bills lack support from law enforcement officials. If that’s the case, Gov. Mark Dayton has said he wouldn’t sign it into law.
Neither the Senate nor the House bills allow patients to smoke the drug, but rather, they could take it in pill or oil form or with a vaporizer. If a bill passes, Minnesota would be the only state of the 21 and the District of Columbia that bans smoking marijuana.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE HOUSE?
Rep. Carly Melin has introduced what is being described as “compromise medical marijuana legislation” that would start an observational research study — unlike the previous clinical trial model — that would limit participation to children and adults suffering from the following severe health problems:
– Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
– Crohn’s disease
– Seizures, including epilepsy
– Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including multiple sclerosis
– Tourette’s syndrome
Melin’s bill would establish a Minnesota Department of Health program specifically dedicated to making significant clinical findings on the therapeutic use of cannabis, and patients would need to apply to be approved to participate in the patient registry program.
Only approved patients would be able to access cannabis, and the bill would require health practitioners to record treatment plans, outcomes and submit that data to the patient registry program so that MDH, or a contracted third party, can research and study the effects of its use in the state.
So far, the state estimates that 5,045 Minnesotans would enroll; however, they still won’t be allowed to smoke or vaporize marijuana leaves under the law. Melin’s bill allows medical cannabis in liquid and pill form only, but vaporizing those substances will be allowed.
“If they want to go all the way and send marijuana all over the state for people to smoke, it’s not going to pass,” Dayton said in a Fox 9 Morning News interview last week.
As for where the medical cannabis would come from, Melin’s bill allows for only one Minnesota manufacturer that must be able to provide a reliable supply by July 1, 2015 and be approved by the Minnesota Department of Health.