Advocates Welcome Minnesota as 22nd Medical Marijuana State, but Object to Overly Restrictive Law Adoption of Minnesota law coincides with Congressional vote to end federal interference in implementation of such laws

May 29, 2014 | Kris Hermes

St. Paul, MN -- Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill into law today that makes Minnesota the 22nd medical marijuana state. Patient advocates celebrated the passage of SF 2470, which will protect qualified patients from arrest, prosecution, and discrimination, and license two manufacturers of medical marijuana and 8 distribution centers across the state. However, advocates have voiced concern that the law prohibits smoking medical marijuana as well as the use and possession of the dried, whole-plant flowers, which is the method and form most widely used.

The bill signed into law today empowers "health care practitioners" to recommend marijuana to patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, seizures, and a range of other medical conditions. However, the law limits medical marijuana use to oil that is extracted from the plant using a state-licensed manufacturing process. And, even though the law sets up a patient registry to monitor the health impacts of marijuana, and a task force to evaluate those impacts, advocates are vowing to further expand the program. The law requires the state to start supplying patients with medical marijuana oil by July 1, 2015.

"Minnesota should be commended today for trying to meet the needs of their medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "However, because of the law's serious inadequacies, tomorrow we must roll up our sleeves and begin the process of expanding the law to more effectively meet the real needs of patients," continued Sherer. "We're looking forward to the day when policymakers boast that their state medical marijuana program will help patients the most rather than trying to adopt the most restrictive law in the country."

Under the new Minnesota law, possession of small amounts of whole-plant marijuana is a misdemeanor. Even qualified patients under the new program who are caught with the plant form of marijuana can be jailed for up to 90 days, fined $1,000 and terminated from the program. Nevertheless, patients who strongly prefer consuming whole-plant marijuana or who cannot tolerate the extracted oils approved under the law, have indicated that they will continue to violate the law in order to consume medical marijuana in a form that best meets their healthcare needs.

The adoption of Minnesota's medical marijuana law comes as the U.S. Congress is expected to vote later today on restricting Department of Justice funds used to undermine implementation of such laws. The amendment, which is currently sponsored by 12 House members, 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, comes after advocates have voiced concern over ongoing, aggressive enforcement actions despite a purported shift in DOJ policy marked by a guidance memo issued in August 2013.

Further information:
Text of Minnesota Medical Marijuana Legislation SF 2470

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