Healthy weed: Lawmakers aim to pass medical marijuana bill

January 30, 2007

Brian Voerding, Winona Daily News

State Sen. Steve Murphy and other Minnesota lawmakers are making another run at passing a medical marijuana bill. Lawmakers have introduced similar bills several times in recent years, though none have ever come close to final approval.

“We’re talking about quality of life issues,” said Murphy, a DFLer from Red Wing and chief author of the bill. “This isn’t for everybody. This is another tool in the doctor’s toolbox, if (the patient) feels it’s appropriate and they’re willing to give it a try.”

Murphy said he warmed up to the proposal two years ago when his father died of cancer after nine months of intense pain.

“If that would have been an option for him and he would have chosen it, I would have understood,” he said. “I watched him waste away, and he was in incredible pain.”

Under the legislation, anyone who suffers from a “chronic or debilitating disease” would qualify to receive a registration card and get up to 12 plants or 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

Marijuana can help alleviate pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting — common symptoms associated with chronic illnesses. It’s most commonly used by patients with AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, severe arthritis and multiple sclerosis among other diseases. Some patients use it to avoid getting addicted to prescription painkillers such as Vicodin.

Some doctors and other health officials have spoken against the legislation because smoking can lead to respiratory disease; in response, drug companies have developed ways to distribute marijuana through a prescription inhaler.

Former Winona senator Bob Kierlin carried the bill in 2005; he said then that he supported the bill out of compassion for suffering patients.

Eleven states have legalized medical marijuana in some form, though conflicts have arisen because federal courts don’t always recognize state legislation.

Washington in particular has struggled with vague laws. One patient who was arrested three years ago for using marijuana took a case all the way to the Washington Supreme Court, which upheld her sentence of two months’ home confinement. Some growers and state advocacy groups have been subjected to raids by federal drug officials.

For more information on the legislation, go online to www.senate.mn and enter SF345 in the search box in the upper left corner.

Reporter Brian Voerding can be reached at (507) 453-3514 or at bvoerding@winonadailynews.com.
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