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Senate panel keeps medical marijuana alive despite police pushback

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Health care, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators Updated: April 30, 2014 - 6:31 PM

Minnesota police officers, sheriffs and prosecutors pushed back hard Wednesday against legalizing marijuana for medical use, as a proposal to do just that picks up steam in the state Senate.

"It will end up in the hands of our children," said John Kingrey, executive director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association. "It will result in more kids being arrested for possession of marijuana. We believe it sends the unintended message to our youth that marijuana is a safe substance."

After hearing testimony and amendments for more than five hours, the Senate Judiciary Committee opted to pass the bill through "without recommendation," a practice typically used to keep a bill alive. The committee took a voice vote, so individual votes are unknown. The bill has at least one more committee stop before it can be voted on by the full Senate.

A succession of law enforcement officials denounced the proposal at the Senate hearing. They warned that authorizing marijuana for a range of users with a doctor’s prescription -- from cancer patients to chronic pain sufferers -- would make the drug more widely available statewide. 

The committee vote was the latest success for medical marijuana backers, who saw the proposal revived last week in the Senate followed by rapid passage in a series of committees after sitting dormant for much of the session. 

A companion bill in the House, where members are up for re-election this year, has been in limbo since March, and shows no similar signs of revival. House leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton have resisted attempts to resurrect the proposal.

Senate passage, however, could keep the volatile issue alive right up to the end of the legislative session, and complicate the Capitol’s DFL leaders’ efforts to bring an orderly finish.

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