Marijuana advocates punched back at Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday for refusing to legalize medical marijuana and bashed his proposal for a medical study that they say would be of no use to patients.
"For Governor Dayton to say he is working in the best interest of my daughter is disingenuous," said Maria Botker, a mother from Clinton whose daughter, Greta, suffers from epilepsy.
The governor urged families and medical marijuana advocates to reconsider his offer of spending $2 million for a study. The measure could allow their children to become part of the test trial and potentially provide relief as well as provide solid medical research on what has been a very controversial topic.
"If advocates agree to the compromise solution my administration has proposed - which I believe would provide their children with the medication and relief they need as quickly as possible - then something can be accomplished on this issue this session," Dayton said.
The governor and lawmakers have spent considerable time on the issue this year. The Wednesday news conference was deeply emotional, with teary parents coming to the podium one by one to bash Dayton. At one point, even the bill’s sponsor, DFL Rep. Carly Melin, began to tear up at the podium after parents described the seizures and suffering by their children.
On the other side, law enforcement expressed grave concerns both of the potential for medical marijuana to get into the hands of children and abusers. Health department officials are concerned that none of the medical benefits alleged by advocates have been proven medically.
Dayton and legislators must navigate the issue as polling in Minnesota and around the nation has shown strong support for legalizing medical marijuana.
Families with children suffering from epilepsy said that when they met with Dayton last week, he suggested they should just buy marijuana on the streets. They said their lives are stressful enough without having to resort to criminal behavior to care for their children.
The governor said he is not advocating anybody break the law.
"I cannot, and I do not, advocate breaking the law,” Dayton said. “But as a father, I understand parents who would do anything possible to help their children.”
Even if Dayton’s opposition weakens, serious doubts remain about whether advocates have the votes in the Legislature to get the measure to Dayton’s desk.
“I believe we have the votes,” said Melin, DFL-Hibbing.
Another sponsor of the bill, Rep. Andrea Kieffer, said the vote would be strongly bipartisan.
“We have a tremendous amount of support in the Legislature,” said Kieffer, R-Woodbury. “We all want to be a help to these families.”