Minnesota looking to legalize marijuana

April 30, 2007

, Wahpeton Daily News (MN)

A bill moving through legislation would legalize "medical marijuana" in Minnesota and is receiving a lot of attention. If passed, the bill would make legal the use of marijuana for medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDs, and Hepatitis C.

The legislation has met sharp resistance from the Minnesota County Attorney's Association (MCAA)."There isn't anything, anywhere, ever, that would suggest that marijuana is medicine," said Wilkin County-Breckenridge City Attorney Tim Fox.

Fox, who also sits on the MCAA board of directors and assisted in drawing up their official position said they strongly oppose the bill. Fox said the widespread negative affects of marijuana use would prevent it from ever being able to meet the standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"It would never qualify as medicine," Fox said. "There are very effective medicines that have been prevented from distribution just because of maybe one negative side effect and marijuana has tons of adverse affects."

Proponents of the bill disagree.

According to Minnesotans for Compassionate Care there are numerous associations that support safe and legal access to medical marijuana to people with serious illness.

Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, was the bill's second author. "It empowers patients and physicians," he said.

Fox is perplexed by that position.

"There is not an ounce of research to support marijuana even being called medicine," Fox said.

The Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) coalition in Wilkin County strongly opposes the bill.

Brenda Woytassek, director of the ATOD says she can't understand how the bill has even gotten any traction whatsoever. All the prominent health organizations such as the American Medical Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the American Cancer Society have all rejected the bill, she said.

Sviggum said there are benefits to marijuana's legal use that outweigh consequences. Someone who is suffering and dying is not going to be all that harmed if they get hooked on it during the last days of their life, he said.

The 11-page policy position of the MCAA provides case studies which connect marijuana use with things such as health problems and the death of the innocent.

Sviggum says it is the compassionate and right thing to do.

"If I thought it was going to increase youth access (to marijuana) I wouldn't be on the bill," Sviggum said.

Sviggum said he conducted some un-scientific independent research in some of the states that have passed laws allowing the medical use of marijuana. "I called law enforcement in Colorado, Alaska, Montana, and a New England state," he said. He said he was told that there was no special activity surrounding it one way or another.

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