Medical marijuana: Law enforcement is open to careful first steps

  • Article by: DENNIS J. FLAHERTY, JOHN KINGREY, JIM FRANKLIN and ANDY SKOOGMAN
  • Updated: April 29, 2014 - 11:01 PM

Though we can’t back the bills as written, we’re encouraged by discussion of clinical trials.

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We as Minnesota law enforcement officials have been criticized recently for our strong presence and influence at the State Capitol.

Like every group that advocates for a particular cause in St. Paul, we’re thankful that there are lawmakers who value our expertise and real-world implementation advice as they craft key legislation to keep our communities safe.

As professionals who work hard every day to prevent crime and protect victims, we believe it’s our responsibility to speak out on topics that affect the public safety of Minnesotans. That’s why this year alone we’ve helped lawmakers improve several pieces of legislation related to expungement, immunity in drug overdose situations, data practice changes, exoneration of innocent people and more.

But when it comes to the high-profile medical marijuana debate, we believe our position has been misunderstood by the public and, unfortunately, miscommunicated by others.

Perhaps we have failed to send a loud enough or clear enough message that we are not opposed to taking a responsible and reasonable first step toward finding common ground on this issue.

We want the public and policymakers to know that we are very encouraged by Gov. Mark Dayton and by legislators like Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, who believe a study should take place before Minnesota approves a comprehensive medical marijuana statute. A study and a clinical trial at a reputable Minnesota-based clinic have the potential to bring relief to those children suffering from seizures sooner than any current proposed marijuana bill that we all continue to debate.

Furthermore, we brought a proposal to the table to allow CBD, the main component of medical marijuana, to be extracted and delivered much like a regular prescription drug. This could help children suffering from seizures. However, so far, this proposal has been rejected.

We have also worked with the authors of the medical marijuana bills and have the utmost respect for Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing. They are passionate and committed to their cause.

However, we simply can’t support their bills as currently written. For us, marijuana is not a harmless substance. In fact, for so many who use it on a regular basis, it is an addictive drug, especially for children and young adults. Our concerns center on the fact that marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic drug under federal law and that any legislation that allows people to actually smoke and grow marijuana will result in the drug being more available to all segments of society. For example, states with these less-restrictive medical marijuana laws have higher rates of teenagers smoking pot, and one in six of them will develop an addiction to it, according to a study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Our law enforcement officers and prosecutors, our members, see firsthand the destruction that marijuana and associated drugs do to kids, families and communities. Without changes, these bills will only add to the devastation and create more victims across our state.

Finally, we have suggested taking a first step this session. We need an ongoing study to inform us of the efficacy of medical marijuana. It’s still new territory. If the proponents take an all-or-nothing approach, we will continue to agree to disagree. But if the goal is to find relief, now, for children and their families, we urge all parties to roll up their sleeves and work hard to find a way to take a responsible and reasonable first step.

 

Dennis J. Flaherty, of the Minnesota Peace and Police Officers Association; John Kingrey, of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association; Jim Franklin, of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, and Andy Skoogman, of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, are executive directors of the Minnesota Law Enforcement Coalition.

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