Legislators send conservative medical marijuana bill to governor's desk over lone protest

Dr. Ed Ehlinger, MN public health commissioner
A committee of Minnesota legislators chaired by Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) voted 5-1 Thursday on a single medical marijuana bill that more closely resembles the ultra-conservative House version.

In less than a week, Dibble went from lobbying for his cheaper and more inclusive bill to giving in almost entirely to Rep. Carly Melin's (DFL-Hibbing) bill, which pleases both law enforcement and Gov. Mark Dayton.

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Mark Dayton will sign medical marijuana compromise into law

"It's a process of give and take," Dibble says, vowing to push things further in the future. For the time being, he's agreed to put his weight behind something that Dayton will sign.

So what's in this compromise of compromises? The final bill allows Minnesotans suffering from specific debilitating conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, and Crohn's Disease to consume medical marijuana (although it's momentarily silent on the matters of intractable pain, PTSD, nausea, and wasting). There's a $200 fee to enroll -- $50 for folks on social security disability.

The Minnesota Department of Public Health has until May 1, 2015, to pick two marijuana manufacturers. Each will be responsible for four distribution sites, staffed by pharmacists.

"This is going to change our daughter's life," says Angie Weaver, the teary-eyed mother of an eight-year-girl suffering from Dravet syndrome. She adds: "I thank everyone involved who has made this happen because it has not been an easy process."

There were enough hugs to go around the Capitol, but not the elation that one might have imagined only a month ago. At a Thursday press conference, anyone with eyes could see the division within the ranks of the advocates caused by the recent removal of smoking and certain conditions from Melin's bill.

Some of those folks who've been fighting years for this type of reform were only made aware of the announcement 30 minutes ahead of time and rushed to get there. Others were forced to watch the fruits of their own labors from home. Still others, finding themselves somewhere in between the two camps, peeked over shoulders from the back of the room.

Jessica Hauser says she's withholding judgment until she's certain that her son, who suffers from seizures, will be able to get the medicine he needs. At the very least, she adds, "It's a step in the right direction and it gives us a foundation to ask for more."

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