Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, May 16, 2014

Minnesota about to become 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana

As reported in this local article, headlined "Medical marijuana on verge of Minn. law; it will be strictest in U.S.," the Land of 10,000 Lakes seems poised to join the collection of states to have legalized medical marijuana.  Here are the basic details:

Thousands of Minnesotans with cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and other conditions would be able to legally treat their symptoms with marijuana under a legislative deal struck Thursday.  The proposal will make Minnesota the 22nd U.S. state to grant some legal level of access to the drug for medicinal purposes, but also will be the most restrictive marijuana law in the country.  Minnesota will be the only medical marijuana state that would forbid smoking as a form of treatment and that would bar access to the drug in plant form.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who opposed legalization of medical marijuana for much of the session, pledged to sign the bill into law.  Under the compromise negotiated between the House and Senate, an estimated 5,000 patients could begin using the drug by July 1, 2015, picking up their supply at any one of eight distribution sites across the state....

To obtain the drug, patients will need to be certified as eligible by a doctor, physician assistant or advanced practice nurse.  They will get the drug in liquid, pill or by vaporized delivery method.  The state Department of Health will oversee manufacture of the drug at two sites and set up a distribution center in each of the state’s congressional districts....

The Minnesota Medical Association released a statement that stopped short of support, saying only that it would not oppose the bill.  “It may be the narrowest interpretation of medical marijuana in the country,” said Dr. Dave Thorson, the group’s board chairman.

The full list of conditions eligible for access to the drug are: Cancer associated with severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or severe wasting; glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; Tourette’s syndrome; ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease); seizure-inducing epilepsy; severe and persistent muscle spasms brought on by multiple sclerosis; Crohn’s disease, and terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than a year or that causes severe pain, nausea, severe vomiting or wasting.  Left out of that equation are a wider group of chronic pain sufferers, as well as people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder....

In a statement to the press, Dayton praised the efforts of the group of parents of ill children who want to treat their kids’ seizures with marijuana-based compounds. Earlier in the legislative session, Dayton angered many of those same parents with his firm insistence that law enforcement groups sign off on any medical marijuana law.... Dayton said Thursday his administration “will do everything possible to implement it as swiftly and successfully as is possible.”

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