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Minnesota Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Compromise Bill


Minnesota Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Compromise Bill


Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing approves SF 1641, which would allow people with specific debilitating medical conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it


ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing approved a bill Friday (7-3) that would provide legal access to medical marijuana for people with specific debilitating medical conditions.


"We applaud those members of the Senate who are demonstrating leadership on this issue and moving this much-needed legislation forward," said Heather Azzi, political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care. "Legislators have arrived at a compromise that meets the needs of patients and addresses concerns that had been raised by some officials."


Among those who testified in support of the measure during the two-part hearing were an Arizona-based physician who has encountered federal obstacles to studying medical marijuana; a physician whose practice is located in St. Louis Park; a Bloomington man with a rare form of muscular dystrophy who has found medical marijuana to be the safest and most effective treatment for his severe muscle spasms and pain; mothers of children with epilepsy and other seizure disorders; and a Jordan woman whose late daughter used medical marijuana to relieve the extreme pain and nausea associated with cancer and chemotherapy.


SF 1641, sponsored by Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), would allow people suffering from conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, and severe, debilitating pain to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The Minnesota Department of Health would issue medical marijuana ID cards to patients and establish a tightly regulated system of alternative treatment centers and quality control labs. The bill was amended to remove a provision that would have allowed patients to grow a limited amount of marijuana in their homes if they do not reside within 15 miles of an alternative treatment center.


A companion bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives, HF 1818, was approved in March by the Health and Human Services Policy Committee. Both bills have the maximum number of sponsors allowed - five in the Senate, including two committee chairs, and 35 in the House, including 12 committee chairs. Six additional House members have signed copies of the bill in order to demonstrate their support.


Gov. Dayton has suggested that instead of passing a medical marijuana law, the state should fund clinical trials for patients with seizure disorders. Patients, families of children with seizure disorders, and advocates have rejected that proposal as inadequate. 


"During the past five years, I have learned that obtaining federal permission to conduct clinical trials on medical cannabis is a slow, cumbersome process. While clinical studies are important, they are in no way a substitute for a comprehensive law like those that are working in 21 states," said Dr. Sue Sisley. "If the legislature and the governor want to help suffering patients, the way to do so is by enacting SF 1641."


"There is ample evidence that marijuana can safely and effectively relieve debilitating symptoms, including a cancer patient's nausea and wasting and neuropathic pain. It is time for the state of Minnesota to stop preventing patients from safely accessing this important medicine," said Dr. Jacob Mirman of St. Louis Park. "Medical decisions should be made by medical professionals, not law enforcement professionals."


"A survey published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that three out of four doctors believe medical marijuana should be a legal treatment option," Dr. Mirman said.


Three out of four Minnesota residents (76%) support making medical marijuana legal for seriously ill people whose doctors recommend it, according to a St. Cloud State University Survey released in January. Only 20% are opposed.

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