A handful of Minnesota lawmakers and high-ranking Dayton administration staffers are meeting privately in pursuit of a final medical marijuana proposal that could pass both the House and Senate and secure the signature of Gov. Mark Dayton.
A House-Senate conference committee on medical marijuana has been appointed, but has not yet met. Sen. Scott Dibble, the Senate sponsor of the proposal, will chair the first conference committee meeting, but he said Wednesday the group has no immediate plans to meet in public.
Private talks are underway. A meeting on Tuesday included Dibble, chief House sponsor Rep. Carly Melin and House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, along with several Dayton administration officials: Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher, Senior Policy Adviser Joanna Dornfeld and Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger.
Dibble and Melin both hinted at areas where contrasting House and Senate proposals could meet in the middle. One area of compromise is likely to be the number of sites where patients are able to access medical marijuana. Dibble's bill would have authorized up to 55 grow-and-distribute sites; Melin's proposal allowed only one grow site, with up to two additional sites for distribution.
Dibble has already offered to drop to 24 sites. Melin said Wednesday the House would be willing to move toward that number, but probably not go all the way.
"I think we'd be willing to move up a little bit. Probably not as far as twenty-four," Melin said.
The House proposal would establish a state-monitored registry of medical marijuana patients, with a goal of providing researchers with information about patient outcomes. While Dibble's proposal does not include such a framework, he said he's open to it as long as it's not a major obstacle to access.
"The idea of getting more information, more data, is interesting to me," Dibble said. "I uphold the idea of information. I reject the idea of erecting barriers for people unnecessarily."
Dayton has said he'd sign the House proposal, which was specifically assembled to neutralize the objections of law enforcement organization. Lobbyists representing prosecutors, police officers and county sheriffs have lined up in opposition to the Senate proposal, which unlike the House bill would allow patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in its plant form. The House proposal would only allow possession of marijuana in pill or oil-based form.
Melin said she believes the main priorities of law enforcement are that distribution sites operate under strict limits, and that patients not be able to possess marijuana plant material.
Both Melin and Dibble said they believe they can reach a workable compromise before the Legislature adjourns, no later than next Monday. Dibble said private talks would continue on Wednesday.