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Medical marijuana bill resurfaces in Senate; sponsor expects floor vote

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Health care, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators Updated: April 10, 2014 - 12:17 PM

The proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota has new life in the state Senate, after Gov. Mark Dayton accused lawmakers of avoiding the issue. 

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee reviewed the bill Thursday. The committee did not vote, but its chair said she would take up the proposal again later this month when lawmakers return from a nearly two-week holiday break that starts Friday. 

The bill would give patients with certain medical conditions access to marijuana as treatment. Dayton has expressed reservations about the proposal, citing conflicting views within the medical community as well as opposition by law enforcement groups. Two of Dayton's cabinet officers testified against the proposal at Thursday's Senate hearing: Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. 

But Dayton has also met with patients who use marijuana, and the parents of children with severe epilepsy who want to treat their kids with an oil that contains cannabis extract. He has expressed sympathy, and suggested he might be willing to support state-funded research into the cannabis oil as a possible compromise. Advocates have been reluctant to support research without legalization.

Earlier this week, Dayton chided lawmakers for "hiding behind their desks" on the issue; the bill's Senate sponsor, DFLer Scott Dibble, said that remark motivated him to mount a new push for the bill. 

Both Dibble and the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Carly Melin, said they believe the votes are there in the full House and Senate to pass the bill. The Legislature voted in 2009 to legalize medical marijuana, but then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed it. 

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