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Minnesota Legislature

Medical marijuana use vetoed (vetoed bill)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Terminally ill Minnesotans hoping to use medical marijuana to ease their pain will have to seek relief some other way.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a measure that would have allowed doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients suffering from certain terminal and debilitating conditions.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) and Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), the bill would have made Minnesota the 14th state to allow medical use of marijuana. A regulatory process would have been set up through the Health Department, requiring patients to possess special photo identification cards and providing for licensing of marijuana dispensaries.

The bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support — and bipartisan opposition — following a series of committee hearings earlier in the session where advocates for medical marijuana pressed their case by emphasizing the benefits to cancer patients and others. Survivors of cancer victims gave testimony that marijuana — obtained illegally — was the only thing that increased the quality of life for their loved ones during their final days and weeks.

The bill included a sunset date of Oct. 1, 2011. This was a concession made in an attempt to assuage concerns from law enforcement. According to Rukavina, the proposal would have been much more restrictive than medical marijuana laws in other states.

Opponents of the measure cited widespread opposition from the law enforcement community, who expressed concerns about whether it would increase the street availability of marijuana. Many argued it would also send the wrong message to young people about the potential dangers of using marijuana.

In his veto letter, Pawlenty echoed these sentiments, stating the bill posed “serious public safety and health risks.

“While I am very sympathetic to those dealing with end-of-life illnesses and accompanying pain, I stand with law enforcement in opposition to this legislation,” the governor wrote.

Noting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved and does not regulate medical marijuana, Pawlenty stated that the scientific evidence regarding the benefits and risks of medical marijuana is “insufficient.”

HF292/SF97*/CH166

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