Governor Buzzkill

May 08, 2007

Mike Mosedale, City Pages (Minneapolis)

After a medical marijuana bill squeaked through the state Senate last week, supporters were quick to herald its passage as a historic moment. In the past, similar legislation had never even gotten a floor vote.

And it wasn't just the usual suspects lining up behind the rights of cancer patients who seek relief by smoking the sweet leaf. In the House of Representatives, some law-and-order conservatives broke ranks with fellow Republicans to support the measure.

The biggest surprise: State Rep. Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon). The former house speaker, who opposed medical marijuana in the past, says he had a change of heart after talking to two East Coast lawmakers who had lost spouses to cancer.

"I became aware of the need to address these very painful situations," Sviggum says. "It isn't the biggest issue facing Minnesota, but it could help real people without posing much risk."

But there's little chance Gov. Tim Pawlenty will allow that to happen. Sviggum says he spoke with Matt Kramer, Pawlenty's chief of staff, who informed him the governor would veto the bill. And there aren't nearly enough votes to override the veto, which means the medical marijuana bill will go up in smoke.

"I've had numbers of members, both Republicans and Democrats, tell me in private they would love to support the bill," Sviggum says, "but they can't just yet." 

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