From Wabasha to Warroad, from Sleepy Eye to Silver Bay, Dateline Minnesota scours the state to bring you breaking news from outside the Twin Cities.

About 1,000 express interest in medical marijuana program

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: February 23, 2015 - 1:26 PM
"Yes" and "maybe" responses to the Health Department's medical cannabis survey.

"Yes" and "maybe" responses to the Health Department's medical cannabis survey.

New survey results are giving Minnesota a glimpse of the patients waiting to enroll in the state's new medical marijuana program this summer.

The Health Department launched the online survey earlier this month, trying to figure out who the potential patients might be and what conditions they were hoping to treat with the drug, once it becomes legal on July 1. The state was also trying to figure out how many patients live near one of the eight designated medical cannabis clinic locations.

In all, 1,361 patients responded to the survey. Seventy percent said they were likely to register; 24 percent said they might register, depending on costs and whether their program covered their condition; and 7 percent said they would not.

More than half of the patients who responded said they have multiple sclerosis or other conditions that cause severe muscle spasms. Epilepsy and cancer were the next most common conditions among the patients who responded, followed by glaucoma, Crohn's disease and terminal illnesses.

The average age of prospective cannabis users was 42. Almost 10 percent were children 18 years old or younger, while just under 9 percent were ages 65 or older. Half of respondents said they were on public assistance programs like Medicaid or Social Security disability, which would allow them to enroll in the program for $50, rather than the standard $200 fee.

The results are nonscientific, the Health Department noted in its press release. But the responses, which came in from 92 percent of the state's counties, do offer program planners the first sense of who the patients might be, and where they might live.

Respondents identified themselves by zip code, and the area with the most responses was in Brainerd, where 24 people responded in zip code 56401 -- more than either of the highest-responding areas in Minneapolis (55406) or St. Paul (55112), with 22 and 19 responses, respectively. Zip codes in Austin, Mankato and Moorhead came next with 17 responses each.

The eight medical cannabis dispensing sites the law currently allows are planned for Eagan, Hibbing, Maple Grove, Minneapolis, Moorhead, Rochester, St. Cloud and St. Paul. By law, marijuana will only be sold to patients with certain conditions, and only in the form of pills or liquids, not the raw plant form of the drug.

No deal yet for Austin mall

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: February 20, 2015 - 4:37 PM

Austin’s plans to redevelop the struggling Oak Park Mall are off.

Last week, the Austin Port Authority terminated a purchase agreement for the property, halting the city’s deal to buy the mall and raze half of it so a huge Hy-Vee grocery store could move in.

That agreement, announced in October, included contingencies, including amending lease and occupancy agreements with some of the mall’s remaining tenants, said Craig Byram, city attorney. The deadline for getting those changes was Feb. 13, and the mall’s owners declined to give an extension, he said.

If the port authority hadn’t canceled the purchase, it risked “essentially inherit[ing] the mall in its present condition without the legal right to redevelop it,” Byram said.

The Hormel Foundation had granted the city $3.2 million to buy the property — with the idea that Hy-Vee would then purchase the site, build its store and donate the bare land back to the city.

The city has not abandoned that plan to rethink the property and have Hy-Vee build a 60,000- to 90,000-square-foot store there. But “the ultimate fate of this project is simply in the hands of the mall,” Byram said.

Ice sculpture crash doesn't stop Superior festival bash

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: February 14, 2015 - 6:34 PM
The Superior Ice Project rises on the rubble of the first statue's collapse. (Photo from

The Superior Ice Project rises on the rubble of the first statue's collapse. (Photo from

A giant ice sculpture is rising again, like an icy valentine, on the Wisconsin shoreline.

The original six-story sculpture came crashing down two weeks ago, crushing the city of Superior's hopes for a record breaking tourist attraction.

But the sculptor vowed to rebuild, and the city vowed not to let the crash cancel plans for its ice-sculpture-themed Valentine's Day bash.

On Saturday evening, right on schedule, the city is planning an evening of fireworks, light shows, food vendors and community activities on Barker's Island beside the Superior Ice Project, which Minnesota sculptor "Iceman" Roger Hanson has already rebuilt to about a third of its original height.

The ice sculpture, before the collapse.

The Superior Ice Project rises on the rubble of the first statue's collapse. (Photo from

"I'm not a quitter," Hanson, a self-taught sculptor and engineer from Big Lake, Minn., told the Star Tribune on Feb. 3, after his 66-foot-tall sculpture collapsed in heap of ice cubes following weeks of freeze-and-thaw weather during an unseasonably warm January. The Duluth News Tribune reported Saturday that the rebuilt sculpture stands about 23 feet tall.

The $30,000 public ice project was supposed to anchor weekend festivities on Barker's Island through the end of February. Hanson, who has spent the past seven years building towering ice sculptures in his back yard.

Every Saturday through the end of February, Hanson will hold "Meet the Iceman" talks on Barker's Island. And every Saturday evening, the city will host light shows and fireworks shows around the rising sculpture.

On Feb. 21, there will be light shows at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and on Feb. 28, the light shows start at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., followed by fireworks.

Hanson told the News Tribune the sculpture could top 40 feet by the end of the month. The current record for world's tallest ice sculpture is held by a 53-foot-tall sculpture that rose above the city of Yichin, China.


Scott County mourns 14-year-old killed in a car accident

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks Updated: February 14, 2015 - 3:27 PM

A Scott County community remains in shock after a car accident that killed a 14-year-old girl and seriously injured two of her classmates.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled Anna Mary Bird's death an accident Saturday. She was a passenger in a car that veered off Murphy Lake Boulevard early Thursday evening and collided with a tree.

Bird, a freshman at Prior Lake High School, died at the scene of multiple blunt-force injuries, the medical examiner reported Saturday. The driver, 18-year-old junior Austin Knudson, and the front-seat passenger, 15-year-old freshman Sydney Stone, were critically injured and taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.

The accident happened at 7:10 p.m. Thursday evening, barely two and a half miles from the high school. According to a report from the Scott County Sheriff's Office, the vehicle was traveling northbound on Murphy Lake Boulevard, near the intersection of Sunset Lake Boulevard when it left the roadway and struck a tree.

The incident remains under investigation by the sheriff's office and the Minnesota State Patrol.

As news of the accident spread, social media filled with memorials for Anna Bird, a smiling, popular student and a member of the hockey and lacrosse teams. Mourners gathered at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Savage for a memorial service.

Police say car they were seeking is not linked to Bearson homicide

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks under Bears Updated: February 12, 2015 - 2:04 PM
Thomas Bearson/Facebook

Thomas Bearson/Facebook

The car Moorhead police were seeking in connection to the Thomas Bearson homicide has been found, but does not appear to have any connection to the college student's killing.

"Investigators are comfortable that this vehicle is not associated with the on-going homicide investigation," the department announced in a statement Thursday afternoon. "The community wide support is greatly appreciated as investigators continue to follow-up various leads."

Investigators had asked for the community's help on Monday, and the community delivered.

The search for the car was the first public development in the case in months. Tipsters quickly pointed police to the 2005 Nissan Maxima that security cameras had spotted in the vicinity of the lot where Bearson's body was found last September.

Bearson, an 18-year-old freshman from Sartell, was only a few months into his freshman year at North Dakota State University when he walked out of a party in the early morning of Saturday, Sept. 20, and vanished. His body was found three days later -- five miles away and on the other side of the Red River -- in a used RV sales lot in Moorhead.

The police statement said the search for the killer, and the ongoing need for the community's help with that search, continues.

"Investigators on this case confirm there is a lot of follow-up being conducted on this investigation and value the continued community involvement to strive toward identifying the responsible party in this tragic crime,"" the statement concluded.


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