Senate panel narrowly approves marijuana bill

April 10, 2007

Mark Brunswick, Star-Tribune (MN)

After hearing reservations from police and county attorney organizations concerned about making marijuana more easily accessible, the key law-enforcement policy committee in the Senate narrowly passed a medical marijuana bill Tuesday.

The bill would allow doctors to recommend the use of medical marijuana to patients suffering from such things as severe nausea, seizures or intractable pain.

The measure, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 5-4 vote, closely matches a House version. Supporters said it now contains several compromises to address concerns from law enforcement, including prohibiting medical marijuana from being grown in the home. If the bill becomes law, only a registered nonprofit organization could grow the marijuana.

In an often emotional three-hour hearing, law-enforcement officials said the law would send the wrong message about the dangers of marijuana use, is in conflict with federal law and would be hard to enforce.

Under the bill, users who received a doctor's recommendation would receive a state-issued registry card with a photograph, indicating the person is the qualifying patient. But provisions allowing for a registered primary care giver to obtain and distribute the marijuana raised concerns about potential abuse.

"In my world I don't think we're going to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys," said Bob Bushman, president of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which opposes the bill.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, who said he became a sponsor of the bill after witnessing the pain his father endured as a cancer patient, said that the legislation would apply to only a small group of people and that concerns about abuse are overstated.

"We can listen to the Henny Penny crowd about [large-scale abuse]. It is not going to happen," Murphy said. "I'm bucking the system on this one because traditional medicine hasn't worked for them."

Eleven other states have medical marijuana laws and New Mexico recently adopted a measure that has not yet taken affect.

Both the House and Senate versions await action in respective finance committees, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he opposes the measure and will veto it because of concerns that it sends the wrong message about marijuana use, particularly to young people.

Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636 • mbrunswick@startribune.com



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