Minnesota lawmakers strike medical marijuana deal

Published 10:15 am Friday, May 16, 2014

ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers struck a deal Thursday to legalize medical marijuana, handing a major victory to severely ill children and adults whose emotional appeals for help propelled a major policy change that once appeared dead for the session.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he would sign the legislation, which was closer to the House’s more restrictive bill than the Senate’s. Some patients lamented that the agreement doesn’t allow them to use actual plant material — they instead can use the drug in oil, pill and vapor form — but others were overjoyed.

“This will change my daughter’s life and thousands of lives around Minnesota,” said Angie Weaver of Hibbing, whose 8-year-old daughter is afflicted by a rare form of epilepsy.

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The compromise bill allows for two manufacturing facilities and eight dispensaries statewide, more than the House bill called for. But it covers fewer conditions than the Senate favored. Its prohibition against using plant material disappointed some advocates, who said vaporizing the leaf or smoking the drug were the only ways some patients could get relief from their maladies.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who sponsored the Senate version, lauded the compromise.

“People in Minnesota who are suffering today who have no good options or options at all can have the hope of gaining some relief,” Dibble said during a news conference.

Opponents said legalizing medical marijuana in any form would be a step toward legalizing recreational use, and risked addicting more children to pot and other drugs.

“The voices that weren’t represented during this debate were the parents who have lost children to drug abuse, in which marijuana played a part,” said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.

Ingebrigtsen, a former sheriff, predicted drug treatment costs will soar. He said it was a fantasy if anyone thought that more children wouldn’t use marijuana by legalizing its medical uses.