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Christopher Snowbeck, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published March 11 2014

Minnesota medical marijuana bill's prospects hit a 'stalemate' with law enforcement

ST. PAUL – The prognosis for a bill in the state House to legalize medical marijuana became hazy Tuesday when its chief sponsor said there’s a “stalemate” with critics.

Law enforcement groups are worried about the potential for abuse under the bill, and Gov. Mark Dayton has called on supporters to work out a compromise.

But Rep. Carly Melin, a Hibbing DFLer and chief sponsor of the bill in the House, said Tuesday that negotiations have deadlocked.

“We had offered them a number of concessions …,” Melin said in an interview. “They still rejected the proposal, so I just don’t know where to go from here.”

Dayton signaled Tuesday that there’s still time for both sides to work out an agreement. But House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, suggested the issue could be dead.

“This session we have brought both sides on this issue together multiple times to see if there was a compromise that could be reached,” Thissen said in a statement. “It does not appear to me that a compromise is going to happen this session.”

Thissen has said it would be unlikely for the House to take up Melin’s bill on the floor without a compromise agreement.

With sponsors from both the Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican parties, Melin’s bill would make marijuana available to people with conditions such as cancer, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS, so long as doctors certified that patients might benefit.

With written certification, patients would apply to the Minnesota Department of Health for an ID card, which they would use at a new network of dispensaries or “alternative treatment centers” across the state. Patients could receive 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.

A House committee was scheduled to hear the bill Tuesday, but Melin postponed the discussion after negotiations in the past week failed to produce an agreement with law enforcement groups.

To address their concerns, Melin said, she offered to drop bill provisions that would have allowed some patients to grow marijuana plants at home. She also offered to prohibit smoking marijuana, while allowing use by vaporization.

But Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, said the concessions didn’t go far enough.

The bill still would have allowed patients to use medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder and conditions that result in intractable pain – uses that have the “potential for abuse,” Flaherty said. Law enforcement groups also wanted to limit use to marijuana derivatives in the form of pills, oils or vapors, Flaherty said, but not vaporization of marijuana leaves.


The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.