Publicity about the so-called “medical marijuana” bill calls it a compromise, but that’s not what it is. It is a false step to reform, not a first step. Predicated more on residual “reefer madness” attitudes about people smoking cannabis for fun, instead of seriously seeking relief for suffering Minnesotans, this law repeats the mistakes of its predecessor, the 1980 THC Therapeutic Research Act, which was a dead letter as soon as it was passed.
The new law will actually discredit the reform it purports to achieve. That sabotage is intentional, not on the part of the sponsors but certainly on the part of the obstructionists like the law enforcement lobby and their stooge, Gov. Mark Dayton. All they actually want is a public relations gimmick to counteract the negative publicity generated by desperate parents with suffering children.
This pretend compromise picks and chooses which medical conditions may be treated — as if legislators and cops were qualified to practice medicine — thereby denying equal protection of the laws. It involves the police directly in making decisions about medical care; no other diseases can be added without approval by a committee that is weighted with “law enforcement” members. It requires patients to buy a license for the privilege of obtaining medication. It attaches more criminal penalties to cannabis when public opinion favors ending prohibition. It intrudes state bureaucracy between doctors and patients with burdensome monitoring and reporting requirements. It denies patients the most convenient, inexpensive, and efficacious methods of administration and self-titration of dosage amounts and frequency.
The bill promises to supply therapeutic cannabis extracts, oils and other “nonsmokable” compounds, in forms and calibrated doses not necessarily even available or producible yet. It will require expensive testing and research, the outcome of which isn’t assured, before patients can, in theory, receive the preparations.
Why do this when 20 other states already allow patients to receive and use natural herbal cannabis and its tinctures and extracts, with proven safety? Patients who need cannabis need it now, not a year or two or three from now.
These are some but not all of the problems with this bill. Its purpose is to provide political cover for Dayton and to discredit the therapeutic use of cannabis by cluttering it with absurd restrictions; and in doing so, to dissipate the public interest in and public demand for reform.
In good faith, patients and their allies have sought legal permission for medicinal use of cannabis since 1991 in Minnesota. In bad faith, prohibitionist special interests and cowardly politicians have defeated all of the bills since 1991. This year when — because of public outcry — they could not sidetrack it and bury it in the maze of the legislative process, they cynically perpetrated this fraudulent bill and hope the news media won’t expose the deception.
The only good thing about the bill was the decision to use the designation “cannabis” instead of the demonized neologism “marijuana” in the text of the statute. But this small fact won’t be respected or even reported by the media, so it was a wasted gesture.
Oliver Steinberg lives in St. Paul.