Parents of ailing children, doctors and clergy are intensifying their push to persuade legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton to legalize medical marijuana this year.
“Our leaders here in Minnesota have the opportunity to heal the sick and bind up the injured,” said the Rev. Catherine Schuyler, of Duluth. “They have the opportunity to make good medicine available to those who are in pain.”
Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, the group leading their effort, held a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday to announce that 100 doctors and religious leaders from around the state support the measure, although no doctors attended the event.
The proposal would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with a certain ailments, including children with seizure disorders.
Federal regulators do not consider marijuana to have a medical benefit, so doctors are barred from prescribing it.
Dayton has resisted legalization, citing the strong objections of law enforcement and health officials, who say that legal access would make marijuana more readily available to underage and recreational users.
The governor has tried to seek a compromise, offering to have the state pay for a Mayo Clinic study that would allow at least 200 children with seizures to be part of trials, to determine whether marijuana has proved medical benefits.
The study could provide new and potentially groundbreaking medical research in what has become a very political issue in Minnesota and around the country.
Medical marijuana advocates have rejected the study proposal, saying there is no guarantee that Mayo Clinic could legally obtain marijuana for the trial. Instead, advocates are resuming their push for legalization, saying public opinion and existing medical research is on their side.
“Studies have shown that medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for people suffering from nausea, appetite loss and pain that are often caused by HIV/AIDS or the medical used to treat it,” said Bill Tiedemann, executive director of the Minnesota AIDS project.
No medical professionals attended the news conference, but the Minnesota Nurses Association released a statement of support.
“We believe this legislation will result in positive health outcomes for the sickest patients in Minnesota,” the group said.