Lawmakers Debate use of Medical Marijuana

March 07, 2007

, Fox News - Twin Cities (MN)

Lawmakers at the state capitol are debating the legalization of medical marijuana here in Minnesota.  A House committee took up the issue legalizing marijuana for medical use today, and will resume the discussion tomorrow. 

Although marijuana use can be perceived as a taboo act of recreation, others find it’s an escape from painful suffering.  Supporters say they feel confident about their movement to make it legally available to those in need of relief from such pain.

Shannon Pakonen has nearly constant symptoms from Turrets Syndrome.  He says marijuana eases the discomfort.  He has spoken in support of medical marijuana -- something he says led to a teacher harassing his teenage son, who has developmental disabilities.

Still, the idea of medical marijuana use is gaining increased bipartisan support.  The legislation saw some progress in 2006, with even more support this year.  However, some opponents of the bill have no plans to ease their fight against it.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstron says he has little doubt that legalizing medical marijuana will have unwelcome consequences.

"More use of marijuana for non-medical reasons for many, including youth. And that's the major concern of law enforcement" said Backstron.

Oh the other hand, House Rep. Steven Sviggum says he has come around on the issue.  He called law enforcement in the 11 states where medical marijuana is legal, and found no increases in crime.

"I think it's a compassionate thing to do, the right thing to do. Empower patients and doctors not politicians to make the best decisions the best recommendations" said Sviggum.

Sviggum believes the bill could pass this year, and hopes conversations with Governor Pawlenty can lead to compromise.

But Pawlenty sides with law enforcement on this issue, and strongly opposes legalizing medical marijuana. 

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