News & Politics

Minnesota Poised to Legalize Medical Marijuana, While Banning Pot Smoking

Proposed legislation is more ambitious than what the governor and law-enforcement officials wanted.

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An ambitious medical marijuana bill with veto-proof bipartisan support was passed by the Minnesota Senate, but the same bill bans pot smoking.

With a 48-18 vote, the state's upper chamber sent a message to Gov. Mark Dayton. The Senate indicated that it prefers less restricive legislation than what the governor and state law enforcement officials wanted.

Should the bill become law, it will allow patients take marijuana supplements in the form of pills, oil and vapor, but they would not be allow to smoke it. No other state that allows the use of medical marijuana bans the smoking of it.

It is widely expected that the Minnesota House will pass their version of the marijuana measure in the next few days. However, the House version of the bill does not allow for the possession of “crude” marijuana, only marijuana that is highly processed for medical use. The Senate bill allows patients to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Neither allow for the smoking of marijuana.

The House bill only allows for one state-run facility to obtain marijuana, while the Senate bill stipulates that 55 treatment centers would be allow to grow, harvest, and sell marijuana to patients that possess a prescription.

Minnesota is poised to become the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana. The District of Columbia has also legalized its use for patients. Colorado and Washington allow for recreational use.

According to language in the two versions of the bill, patients can obtain medical marijuana if they suffer from specified conditions caused by diseases such as epilepsy, cancer and glaucoma. The patient must also obtain a prescription by a medical doctor or an osteopath. The physician must state in writing that a patient would probably benefit from marijuana use.

If either version of the legislation is passed and signed, it should go into effect in about a year.

Minnesota's law enforcement community was against any measure that legalizes the possession of a marijuana plant by patients. They maintain that legal possession of marijuana plants would lead to wider recreational distribution, more drugged-driving accidents, and would give children easier access to the drug.

Some medical-marijuana advocates are not happy with the more progressive Senate bill. They maintain that chemotherapy patients must smoke it because the nausea associated with chemotherapy makes injesting the drug in edible, oil, or pill forms risky. They also maintain that vaporizing apparatus may be too expensive for low-income chemotherapy patients.  

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.


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