ST. PAUL, MN — Twin bills to legalize medical marijuana in the Twin Cities, as well as the rest of the state, were introduced in both chambers of the Minnesota State Legislature Thursday.
If passed, the bills would protect people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other serious illnesses from being arrested and imprisoned for possessing and using a limited amount of marijuana for medical purposes on the advice of their doctors.
“People suffering from diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis should be able to access medical marijuana safely and use it without fear of being arrested,” said Heather Azzi of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care at the bills’ introduction Thursday.
Representative Carly Melin and Senator Scott Dibble are the authors of the bills, Senate File 1641 and House File 1818, which would allow qualifying patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces and grow up to twelve plants in an enclosed, locked facility.
Additionally, the law would license registered, nonprofit organizations to grow medical marijuana and would allow certain patients or their caregivers to cultivate marijuana if a nonprofit organization is not available to provide the medicine. The law would also protect patients’ caregivers from criminal penalties for possessing and delivering medical marijuana for the patients’ use.
Medical marijuana dispensaries would have to pay a $15,000 registration fee, and there would be limits on the number of dispensaries that could operate in any county dependent on population.
The well rounded bill also prohibits the use of medical marijuana on school buses and school grounds, on public transportation, in the presence of a child and while operating vehicles, boats or other transportation equipment.
The bill also protects physicians who recommend medical marijuana to their patients, stating that they would not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty for providing written recommendations to medical marijuana patients or for otherwise stating that the benefits of a patient’s medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh any health risks.
The bills feature bipartisan support from over 40 co-sponsors spanning both chambers, though considerably more Democrats are signed on as co-sponsors. Of the 35 House sponsors, 12 are committee chairs, and two of the five Senate sponsors are committee chairs.
Minnesota lawmakers approved a medical marijuana bill in 2009, but then-Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed the measure. Current Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has voiced opposition to legalization of marijuana for any use.
The bills are unlikely to make any progress this legislative session, given that policy deadlines have long since passed. But by introducing it now the proposal could be up for discussion in 2014.
While state lawmakers are not anticipated to prioritize this issue this year, it remains important that they hear from constituents. Minnesota residents are urged to contact their elected officials today and urge them to support Minnesota’s patients and legalize the medical use of marijuana.