Dayton says he’ll sign latest compromise proposal
Putting to rest one of the most contentious and high profile issues of the legislative session, lawmakers on Thursday afternoon said they had reached a deal on a proposal to legalize medical marijuana.
Unlike the 21 states that currently allow use of medical marijuana, qualifying patients in Minnesota would be prohibited from smoking marijuana or even possessing the leaf form of the plant. Instead, patients would be provided with extracts in liquid or pill form – though the compromise does include what Senate chief author Scott Dibble called “whole plant extracts,” unlike the earlier House compromise proposal.
The use of vaporizers is permitted as part of the deal, and Dibble further alluded to broadened provisions allowing for the transport of marijuana extracts to patients who might have difficulty traveling to a regional distribution center.
In a statement, Gov. Mark Dayton called the compromise “citizen government at its best” and pledged to sign it into law once it clears the Legislature. The House and Senate, which earlier passed differing bills, are expected to take up the legislation on Friday after final details are addressed in conference committee.
While the text of the bill was not immediately available, according to a summary provided at the press conference, qualifying conditions will include cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, ALS, seizure disorders, severe and persistent muscle spasms, Crohn’s disease and terminal conditions in which a patient has less than one year to live.
Intractable pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, included in earlier proposals, will be excluded.
In one of the compromises between the Senate and the House versions, the deal allows for the establishment of two medical marijuana manufacturers and eight distribution sites across the state. The House bill had limited the supply chain to a single manufacturer, while the Senate bill permitted up to 55 dispensaries.
The announcement was made by lead authors from the two chambers, Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing. Dibble called the deal “an important step,” while Melin said it is “a very good piece of compromise legislation.”
Joining Dibble and Melin at the dais was a bipartisan group of lawmakers, among them Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake.
“I’m happy to be a flip-flopper on this issue. Only a fool and a dead man never change their mind,” said Hamilton, who has long had multiple sclerosis, one of the qualifying conditions.
Asked about the response of the law enforcement community to the legislation, Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, said most rank and file police officers support it. Schoen said the limitations included in the medical marijuana proposal make it “the strictest and most regulated in the country.”