[MMA News Now, May 8, 2014]
Medical marijuana legislation, in one form or another, appears destined to end up on Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk before the session ends May 19.
On May 6, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill, 48 to 18, that would allow patients 2.5 ounces of marijuana at a time. In this bill, physicians would determine whether a patient has a qualifying condition and that the condition may be alleviated by the use of marijuana. The individual would then seek a state-issued card to obtain medical marijuana at a state-approved dispensary. The MMA, as well as law enforcement, does not support the Senate bill (SF 1641
Meanwhile, the House is working on a significantly different bill that will go up for a vote on May 9. The latest version of the House legislation
creates a patient registry. Physicians’ only role would be to confirm that a patient has one of the qualifying conditions. Law enforcement is neutral on the House bill.
Both bills allow a patient to ingest the drug in either pill or oil form or to vaporize the drug with a device, though the House bill allows “vaping” of only a marijuana-derived oil, not the leaf product. Neither bill allows a patient to smoke the drug.
In a May 7 letter
addressed to Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), chief author of the legislation, the MMA states that it no longer opposes the House bill. “The House bill would establish processes to manage the quality and safety of the cannabis used and would remove physicians from certifying or recommending cannabis for patients,” said the letter signed by MMA President Cindy Firkins Smith, M.D. The letter also went to Gov. Dayton and Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger, M.D.
“The Senate bill,” the letter continues “aims to insert physicians into the role of certifying the value of marijuana for patients with serious conditions – a role physicians cannot fulfill due to the absence of FDA approval and the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I (illegal) substance.”
Qualifying conditions include: cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Tourette’s Syndrome, ALS, seizures brought on by epilepsy, muscle spasms caused my multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease. The Senate version would also include PTSD and conditions that cause chronic pain.
If the House bill passes, differences between both bodies’ versions will have to be worked out before the legislation is sent to Dayton for his signature.