Minnesota House passes medical pot legislation

MARSHALL – State Rep. Chris Swedzinski knows many families have been positively affected by the use of medical marijuana and had no qualms with the bill passing Friday, but his decision to vote against the bill rests with his belief that more education should be implemented on the issue.

“The biggest issue we have is there are a lot of things we just don’t know about,” said Swedzinski, R-Ghent. “I believe the FDA should take a leadership position on this, and right now there are big differences between the Senate bill and the House bill. Law enforcement has said they’re OK with the House version but against what is going on in the Senate.”

Friday’s 86-39 vote came after some debate over whether the House should adopt a measure almost identical to the Senate proposal. A lot of Friday’s discussion was filled with emotion from legislators who have been touched by families that are dealing with health issues that could be helped if medical marijuana was legal in Minnesota.

District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, voted for the bill, mainly because of the response to the issue he’s received from his constituents. He said legislators have had a year to discuss the issue with the voters back in their districts and their involvement, he said, made his decision an easy one.

“The bill was introduced last year, so we’ve been talking about it for some time,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to try to do my best to represent my constituents, and I was surprised at how positive of a response I was getting from them about this.”

Schomacker knows there are differences between the House and Senate bills but believes a final bill will emerge and make its way to the governor’s desk this session.

“There’s going to be a lot of work to be done next week, and I don’t envy the people on the conference committee for the work they have to do,” he said. “But I’m thinking it will go to the governor this session to have him decide on it.”

Dayton on Friday evening sent a letter to House and Senate sponsors of their respective medical-marijuana bills. Gov. Mark Dayton said he would sign the bill into law if legislators adopted the House version as is.

The bill would legalize medical pot in pill, oil and vapor form to patients from three state dispensaries.

Law enforcement and the Minnesota Medical Association do not oppose the bill.

Study participants will get their medical cannabis through a single manufacturer and up to two satellite distribution centers, approved and regulated by the Minnesota Department of Health.

All cultivating, harvesting, manufacturing, packaging and processing would take place at the manufacturer site. Patients must pay a fee to participate in the registry and receive their medical cannabis. The patient registry program enables ongoing study and research of the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis.

Other details of the bill include:

The Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act will have a fiscal impact of $2.9 million in FY 14-15 and a total of $4.9 million over the next three years.

Participants in the patient registry program must be Minnesota residents diagnosed with one of the following qualifying medical conditions:

Cancer

Glaucoma

HIV/AIDS

Tourette’s syndrome

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Seizures, including epilepsy

Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including multiple sclerosis,

Crohn’s disease