By a 14 – 7 margin, the Senate Finance Committee on Monday voted to send medical marijuana legislation to the Senate, where the controversial and suddenly fast-moving measure is now set to go to a floor vote on Tuesday.
After the hearing, the bill’s lead author, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he is confident the bill has enough to support to pass the full chamber.
The Finance Committee vote broke mostly along party lines, with two Republicans – Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge and Sen. Scott Newman, R- Hutchinson – joining the Democrats on the panel.
In a discussion that focused on financial impacts, Dibble said the legislation was crafted “to make sure the bill has no implications for the general fund.”
Under the bill’s terms, medical marijuana dispensaries – referred to as alternative treatment centers — would be required to pay $15,000 for an annual operating permit. Most patients would also be required to pay a yearly fee: $140 for most card holders with a lower rate for certain poor people.
Dibble said he expects that structure will generate surpluses and thus could be “scaled back” in future years.
The committee also adopted an amendment from Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, which would compel the Medical Cannabis Advisory Council to devise a method to track practitioners who prescribe marijuana and for what conditions.
“We just want to make sure there is some quality assessment of that practice,” said Bonoff.
“The point is to make sure we don’t get a Minnesota version of Doctor Feelgood,” said Nienow.
Under another amendment authored by Bonoff, the Department of Public Safety will report on its medical marijuana-related expenditures and provide comparisons to its projected costs. In a fiscal note, the Department pegged those costs at $609,000 per year, the bulk of which would pay for two special agents at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and three forensic scientists.
Dibble called that estimate “a little over-stated.”
In an 11 to 10 vote, the committee rejected a proposal to restrict where marijuana dispensaries could be located, including a prohibition within 1,000 feet of shopping malls and churches. Marijuana should not be sold “where large numbers of children congregate,” said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, the amendment’s author.
Dibble called concerns about location “exaggerated and overblown” and pointed out the bill authorizes local land use authorities to enact reasonable zoning regulations.
In the final vote on the bill, seven committee members came out against the bill. Joining Ingebrigtsen were Sen. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo, Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, and Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud.