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Thissen looking for a compromise on medical marijuana

Posted by: under Health care, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature Updated: March 7, 2014 - 4:37 PM

Medical marijuana faces a tough fight in the Minnesota Legislature, House Speaker Paul Thissen warned Friday.

Legislation that would make Minnesota the 21st state to legalize medical marijuana cleared one committee this week and heads to Government Operations next Tuesday. The bill would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana and allow patients to either pick up their prescriptions at a licensed marijuana dispensary or grow their own under lock and key.

But in its current form, the bill is unlikely to make it to the House floor, Thissen said. State law enforcement associations strongly oppose the bill in its current form, and Gov. Mark Dayton does not want to sign off on a law without law enforcement support.

"What I want to get to is a bill that both law enforcement and the advocates of medical marijuana can support," Thissen told reporters Friday. "Until we get that bill, I don’t see a bill passing out of the House floor."

Law enforcement groups worry that medical marijuana will make it into the wrong hands -- particularly teens and people seeking marijuana more for its recreational effects than any therapeutic benefits.

The medical marijuana debate pits law enforcement against patients and families seeking the drug to treat a host of debilitating conditions. The first hearing drew parents seeking cannabis treatment for young children with seizure disorders, a mother who scored marijuana to ease the final months of her daughter's battle with cancer, and patients seeking the drug for conditions ranging from glaucoma to muscular dystrophy.

It might be possible, Thissen said, to hammer out a compromise that both sides can live with.

"We’ve been sitting down with law enforcement folks and the advocates a number of times and there has been some progress and movement together," Thissen said. "It wouldn’t be as broad, obviously, as the bill that got its hearing last week in the committee, but I think we are making progress and will continue to work at that."

The bill is not yet scheduled for a hearing in the Senate.

"The negotiations are on to see if we can get law enforcement involved," Senate Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Hayden told reporters. "The governor’s been pretty clear from the very beginning that he wasn’t going to sign a bill that law enforcement didn’t approve. I think that those negotiations are ongoing."

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