Mark Dayton signs medical marijuana bill [UPDATES]

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Photo by Jesse Marx
Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Carly Melin at the podium during today's news conference.
:::: UPDATE :::: This morning, Governor Dayton signed the bill into law.

"I thank everyone who worked together to craft and pass this legislation," the governor says in a statement. "I pray it will bring to the victims of ravaging illnesses the relief they are hoping for."

::::: UPDATE II ::::

You might have noticed Governor Dayton didn't hold any sort of elaborate signing ceremony for the medical marijuana bill. One big reason for that is advocates for the bill aren't totally happy with it. In fact, they're planning to deliver flowers to the Governor's Residence tomorrow morning at 11 on behalf of the thousands of seriously ill Minnesotans who won't be able to access medical marijuana under the state's new system.

From a statement distributed today by Minnesotans for Compassionate Care:
Approximately 5,000 Minnesotans will qualify for the new program, according to a legislative analysis of the House bill on which it is based. Gov. Dayton blocked a widely supported and more effective version of the law -- which would have allowed 38,000 seriously ill Minnesotans to access medical marijuana, according to a legislative analysis of a widely supported Senate bill. The governor promised to veto any bill, such as the Senate bill, that did not have the support of law enforcement associations. Law enforcement was neutral on the final bill, which included several restrictions upon which Gov. Dayton insisted.
"The new law holds promise for many seriously ill Minnesotans, but it also leaves many behind," Heather Azzi, political director of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, says in the statement. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of Minnesotans suffering from truly debilitating conditions who will not be allowed to access medical marijuana under the new law. The legislature must come back next session ready to expand upon this bill so that all Minnesotans who could benefit from medical marijuana are able to access it."

(Original post -- May 15) Less than two months ago medical marijuana seemed dead, at least as far as this legislative session was concerned. But during a press conference this afternoon, Scott Dibble and Carly Melin announced that the Senate and House have come together on a medical marijuana compromise. (Read the backstory here.)

Dibble said the compromise bill is based on the more restrictive House model. There will be eight so-called "alternative care centers" around the state. Qualifying condition for a "medical cannabis" prescription include cancer; terminal illness; glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; and Crohn's Disease. (Among others -- see the fact sheet below for more.)

See also:
New study undercuts law enforcement claims about medical marijuana

PTSD isn't included as a qualifying condition. Dibble indicated he isn't happy about that, but said, "It's a compromise... It's not a perfect process."

Patients won't be able to smoke or vaporize loose-leaf marijuana, but will have access to "whole-plant extracts," as Dibble put it.

Rep. Dan Schoen (D-Cottage Grove) characterized the bill as "the strictest and most regulated in the country" as far as medical marijuana goes.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced he'll sign the bill into law even before this afternoon's press conference even began. Here's the statement he released announcing his support:
"This bill is citizen government at its best. It has been led by parents, who deeply love their children, are anguished by their pain, and insist their government try to help them. As a father and grandfather, I both understand and admire their devotion.

"I also congratulate the bill's authors, Representative Carly Melin and Senator Scott Dibble, for their extraordinary efforts. I thank them for their willingness to bring together groups with very different perspectives and to work with them to achieve this result.

"Finally, I want to credit Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, who added his invaluable medical and public health expertise to the bill's final deliberations.

"I look forward to signing this bill into law. And I pledge that my administration, led by Dr. Ehlinger, will do everything possible to implement it as swiftly and successfully, as is possible."
:::: UPDATE ::::

Here's a fact sheet distributed by the Senate DFL communications staff providing more details about the compromise bill:

Medical Cannabis Fact Sheet by SenateDFL



:::: UPDATE II (4:15 p.m.) ::::

Sen. Branden Petersen (R-Andover), one of the members of the conference committee that's meeting as we publish this, just released a statement saying he "cannot support" the medical marijuana compromise.

"While this bill potentially brings much needed relief for some patients across the state, it leaves so many more without legal protections for using medical cannabis under a doctor's order," Petersen writes. "Specifically, the absence of intractable pain, veteran PTSD, wasting, and severe nausea in the list of qualified medical conditions is unacceptable... Too many Minnesotans will remain in unnecessary agony for the foreseeable future."

Petersen also criticizes the bill for its "prohibition on using cannabis in its natural state."

"Only allowing extracts administered via pills and oils ignores the volumes of research demonstrating the medical benefits of natural cannabis," he writes.

Here's the entirety of Petersen's statement, which pins most of the blame on Governor Dayton:

My Statement on Medical Cannabis Compromise by Sen_b_Petersen



To watch video of today's press conference, click to page two.



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