The moms stood in the House gallery for an hour and more as the debate over medical marijuana proceeded, bearing compelling witness to the point they'd been making all session: This issue is about the very lives of sick children and their families.

They are Minnesota mothers of young children suffering debilitating and potentially fatal forms of epilepsy. They've been at the Capitol all year, so much so that many legislators know not only their names, but their children's. They know how desperate those families are to relieve their children's misery, and how convinced they are that medicinal cannabis -- their preferred name -- can bring that relief.

Maybe because they were there, Friday's debate in the House was unlike any other this session. It was highly personal and emotional as legislators said they empathize with those standing moms and the other sufferers they represented. In turn, they told their own stories about the conditions marijuana or its deviatives might ease. Tearful stories were shared about the helplessness of losing a young wife and mother to breast cancer, the horrors of sickening chemotherapy, the desire of children to ease a father's multiple sclerosis symptoms.

The partisan politics that is the daily norm on the House floor drained away. The vote that sent the bill back to the Senate, and likely to conference committee, was a bipartisan 86-39, with 17 Republicans voting yes and two DFLers voting no.

Citizen lobbying is not rare at the Minnesota statehouse. But this year's dogged persistence of the "marijuana moms" has been extraordinary, and appears to be a game-changer. The opposition of law enforcement and the medical establishment has been enough to stymie medical marijuana bills in previous years. If this year proves different, the sick Minnesotans who will have legal access to marijuana's relief will have these mothers to thank.