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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published March 26 2014

Parents go after Dayton for his stance on medical marijuana

ST. PAUL – Parents of suffering children used an emotional Wednesday news conference to blame Gov. Mark Dayton for killing a bill that would allow them to use marijuana to ease children’s seizures.

A Woodbury parent said the governor should “put special needs ahead of special interests.”

“Minnesotans with debilitating medical conditions and their families should not have to take a backseat to politics,” said Jessica Hauser of Woodbury, whose son Wyatt has epilepsy.

The parents were critical of comments Dayton made in a radio interview this week in which he all but declared efforts dead to legalize marijuana to help children with seizures and other Minnesotans with extreme pain.

A bill by Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing, has stalled. It would allow Minnesotans to use marijuana plants or chemicals from the plant to help medical conditions.

However, law enforcement and medical groups oppose her bill. Law enforcement leaders say they do not want the plant used because of the chance for abuse. Medical organizations also have expressed concerns.

Dayton said he will not sign the bill because of the opposition. Instead, he has suggested that Mayo Clinic conduct an extensive medical study with 200 children to see if a chemical from marijuana could ease their seizures. He also would ask his health commissioner to lead a study of how medical marijuana laws have worked elsewhere.

“I have the deepest sympathy for children and adults who are afflicted with serious diseases, and for their parents who must suffer with them,” Dayton said in a statement released shortly before the parents met the media. “My comment yesterday, in which I referred to ‘the advocates who want to legalize medical marijuana and be able to smoke marijuana plants and leaves,’ was in no way intended to refer to victims of terrible diseases or their parents, who I was trying to help. I regret that my words were unclear.”

Dayton’s comments did not calm parents, or Melin, whose eyes teared up at the news conference.