Medical marijuana bill makes its final passage from House

Medical marijuana has cleared its final hurdle in the legislative branch and now awaits the governor’s signature before it becomes law.

The House adopted the conference report and repassed the bill, SF2470, Friday with a 89-40 vote. The Senate did the same earlier in the day with a 46-16 vote. Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) and Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls) are the sponsors.

“Patients have safe legal access to medical cannabis in 21 other states,” Melin said. “They should be afforded that same opportunity here in Minnesota where they’re under the care of some of the best healthcare practitioners in the country. We shouldn’t have to ask families here in Minnesota to leave in order to get the medicine that they need to help their family.”

House and Senate conference committee members announced Thursday a compromise on the medical marijuana bill that reconciled the differences. The House bill featured an observational study complete with a patient registry system while the Senate bill had a larger list of medical conditions qualifying someone to use medical marijuana and a greater number of distribution centers.

Although the bill passed by a wide margin, not everyone was happy with the provisions.

“I feel like we’re making decisions here based on emotional feelings instead of science, and I don’t think that’s a responsible governing measure,” said Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Lake Elmo).

Some of the concerns representatives described centered on the dearth of research on medical marijuana, including dosage levels, drug interactions and side effects.

“I’m very, very concerned about the safety moving forward and the precedent that we’re setting,” said Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood).

Sometimes medications approved by the Federal Drug Administration cause serious side effects, explained Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center).

Added Rep. Dan Schoen (DFL-St. Paul Park): “This is about helping Minnesotans that can’t find the relief, can’t find that FDA approved medication…”

The compromise used the House bill as a template and made such changes as:

  • adding a some medical conditions in the case of cancer or a terminal illness;
  • increasing to two the number of required medical manufacturers and to eight the number of medical marijuana distribution centers;
  • allowing the extract of the whole marijuana plant to be used in a vaporizer as opposed to liquid only;
  • permitting designated caregivers who would administer the medical marijuana to patients help more than one person who live in the same place; and
  • incorporating Senate language on civil and criminal penalties for providing medical marijuana to people not in the registry.

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    Andrea Parrott's picture
    Andrea Parrott

    Andrea Parrott is a freelance writer from the 'burbs. (Twitter: @andrea_parrott)