Medical marijuana bill carried by gubernatorial candidate Steve Kelley fails in committee

March 02, 2006

T.W. Budig, ECM Newspapers (MN)

A medical marijuana bill carried by a DFL gubernatorial candidate failed in a Senate committee on Thursday (March 2) and perhaps failed for the session.

Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, has had success earlier with his bill but negative votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee left the senator contemplating Senate rules for other options.

Kelley’s bill attempts to establish a framework under which people suffering from medical ailments and conditions could obtain marijuana. Marijuana use is illegal in Minnesota.

Darrell Paulsen, of St. Paul, testified that he has used marijuana for 15 years to lessen the rigidity and other symptoms of his cerebral palsy. “I live my life from a power wheelchair,” said Paulsen.

Neil Haugerud, a former Fillmore County Sheriff and lawmaker, testified in favor of the bill, saying he personally has suffered from chronic pain for years though has not tried marijuana because it’s illegal.

Having the Minnesota Legislature approve a medical marijuana bill would not wholly safeguard users from arrest.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kathleen Pontius, Senate legal counsel opined, allows federal authorities to arrest medical marijuana users even though they’re abiding by state law. “Theoretically they could,” said Kelley of the feds nabbing people. But he didn’t think it likely.

Kelley said the witnesses who admitted to using marijuana for medical reasons showed courage in testifying before the committee.

The bill took an interesting turn when Sen. Wes Skoglund, DFL-Minneapolis, amended it with a provision that would have allowed state law enforcement agencies to give or sell confiscated marijuana to registered marijuana users. They have “the largest stash in the state,” said Skoglund of law enforcement.

The provision was later amended out of the bill.

Two attempts at getting the bill out of the Judiciary Committee failed on tied votes.

Senators Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, and Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, voted for the bill.

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