Minnesota medical marijuana compromise brings tears of happiness
By Don Davis / Forum Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL – Angie Weaver shed tears, again.
“This means the world to our family,” the Hibbing mother said between tears of joy Thursday, hoping her daughter will be able to use marijuana extracts to ease up to 50 seizures she has a day. “This is going to help thousands of Minnesotans. ... My daughter is going to be able to stay in Minnesota and grow up with her cousins.”
Amelia Weaver, 8, sat next to her mother, who has showed tears several times in the past weeks, Thursday as legislators and other medical marijuana supporters announced they have reached a compromise to allow marijuana extracts to be used to treat several medical conditions.
The Weavers and Katelyn Pauling’s family of Montevideo have become regulars in the Minnesota Capitol this year supporting medical marijuana. They have faced continual ups and downs.
“It’s been like the wildest roller coaster I’ve been on ...” said Katelyn’s father, Jeremy. “It’s taking every part of me not to cry now.”
State House and Senate votes are planned Friday as time runs out on the 2014 legislative session. The bill is expected to pass.
“We have all heard from people who live in our districts, people who would benefit from this legislation,” said House bill author Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing.
Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said he started out opposing medical marijuana, even though it could help his multiple sclerosis symptoms. But his mind changed after talking to Weaver and others.
“Meeting the individuals we’re helping, that’s what it’s all about.” Hamilton said.
About 5,000 Minnesotans a month could benefit from marijuana, state officials say.
The compromise calls for two manufacturing operations and eight distributions points around the state. The bill would not allow smoking marijuana or use of the plant, although it would allow whole-plant extracts that could make users high.
Law enforcement groups are expected to remain neutral on the issue and Gov. Mark Dayton announced his support after saying for weeks that he cannot back a medical marijuana bill that lacks law enforcement and medical organizations’ support.
“I look forward to signing this bill into law,” Dayton said, pledging that his administration “will do everything possible to implement it as swiftly and successfully as is possible.”
Rep. Dan Schoen, D-St. Paul Park, said many police officers have supported medical marijuana all along.
The Cottage Grove police officer said the bill “is the strictest and most regulated in the country.” Twenty-one states allow medical marijuana use.
If the Minnesota bill becomes law, marijuana pills and liquids will be available to patients in mid-2015. Their health care providers, mostly doctors, would have to recommend that they be added to a registry.
Medical marijuana could be used to treat some cancer that is accompanied by severe pain, nausea or severe vomiting; glaucoma; HIV-AIDS; Tourette’s syndrome; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; severe and persistent muscle spasms such as those in multiple sclerosis patients; some forms of seizures; Crohn’s disease; and terminal illnesses accompanied by some specific complications.
A major difference between bills passed by the House and Senate was that the House only allowed three places for people to buy marijuana pills and liquids in the state, while 55 were approved in the Senate measure.
One of the prime backers of medical marijuana had a mixed reaction.
“This is a big step forward for Minnesota, but it will leave a lot of Minnesotans behind,” said Heather Azzi of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care. “Some aspects of the law raise serious concerns about the extent to which many seriously ill people will be able to access medical marijuana. We hope legislators will be ready to address them next session.”