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Compromise medical marijuana bill heads to governor

In the penultimate floor votes of the session on Friday, the Senate and House easily passed the compromise medical marijuana bill that was hammered out earlier in the week to win support from Gov. Mark Dayton.

Given the margin by which the two chambers passed different versions of the bill previously, the outcome of the votes was a foregone conclusion.

That did not prevent several lawmakers from reprising the speechifying that characterized the prior debates.

There were some particularly barbed exchanges in the Senate, which passed the bill in a vote of 46 to 16.

After Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, expressly thanked Dayton for his courage in supporting the bill, Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, called the remark “one of the most untrue things I have ever heard in this chamber.”

“Praising the governor for his courage on this issue? You’ve got to be kidding me. There is no one in this room who believes that,” said Petersen, a co-author of the more permissive bill that passed the Senate previously.

“The reason we’re in this position is because the governor has been unwilling to engage in an intellectually honest, meaningful, good-faith conversation about this issue,” said Petersen. Petersen said he voted against the bill because it is unnecessarily restrictive.

One of the measure’s most consistently vocal opponents, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said he feared the legislation would provide children with increased access to marijuana and lead to a full legalization push.

His sentiments were echoed by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont. “No matter how you slice it, members, marijuana is the number one addictive drug in the state,” said Rosen.

In his remarks, Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said that medical marijuana was not considered a priority at the outset of the session and called its passage “a wonderful example of how representative democracy works.”

“A small group of families with their hurting children came to the state Capitol and they changed the law,” said Bakk.

In the House, the floor debate was similar in tone. Some opponents characterized the effort as a gateway to full legalization, while many supporters complained that the bill was too restrictive.

In the final vote, the House passed the bill by a margin of 89 to 40. Two Democrats – Rep. Paul Marquart (Dilworth) and Rep. Mary Murphy (Hermantown) – voted against the measure.

Eighteen House Republicans voted for the bill: Tony Albright (Prior Lake), Michael Beard (Shakopee), Tony Cornish (Vernon Center), Kurt Daudt (Crown), David FitzSimmons (Albertville), Pat Garofalo (Farmington), Rod Hamilton (Mountain Lake), Jerry Hertaus (Greenfield), Joe Hoppe (Chaska), Tim Kelly (Red Wing), Andrea Kieffer (Woodbury), Tara Mack (Apple Valley), Denny McNamara (Hastings), Tim Sanders (Blaine), Joe Schomacher (Luverne), Tama Theis (St. Cloud), Mark Uglem (Champlin), and Nick Zerwas (Elk River).

Five Republican House members didn’t cast votes on the bill: Jim Abeler (Anoka), Mary Franson (Alexandria), Mary Liz Holberg (Lakeville), Linda Runbeck (Circle Pines) and Anna Wills (Apple Valley).

In the Senate vote, Chris Eaton (Brooklyn Center) was the lone Democrat to vote no. Republicans senators voting in favor were Michelle Benson (Ham Lake), Roger Chamberlain (Lino Lakes), Dan Hall (Burnsville), Scott Newman (Hutchinson), Dave Osmek (Mound), Dave Senjem (Rochester), Dave Thompson (Lakeville), and Bill Weber (Luverne).

Five GOP senators did not cast votes: Michelle Fischbach (Paynesville), Karin Housley (St. Marys Point), Mary Kiffmeyer (Big Lake), Warren Limmer (Maple Grove), and Jeremy Miller (Winona).

About Mike Mosedale

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