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Senate panel signs off on medical marijuana, takes smoking out of bill

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Health care, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators Updated: May 2, 2014 - 10:36 AM

A Senate committee voted to legalize medical marijuana on Friday, but struck a provision from the bill that would have allowed patients to smoke the drug. 

The Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee kept the medical marijuana proposal moving at the end of a week where it's shown new momentum at the Capitol. In addition to moving through a series of Senate panels, a House companion bill that had been stalled for nearly two months was suddenly revived on Thursday. 

The Senate Health Committee approved the measure and struck the smoking provision on voice votes, meaning individual votes of members are not recorded. 

The new House proposal is much more modest, suggesting a series of clinical trials that would give patients with certain conditions access to the drug under strict supervision from doctors. The Senate plan is more sweeping, proposing up to 55 medical marijuana "treatment centers" around the state where a wider group of patients could obtain the drug if it's backed by their doctor. 

The House proposal also does not allow marijuana to be smoked. With that provision now out of the Senate bill, it's likely that any final compromise on the legislation will not include the ability to smoke the drug medicinally. 

The House proposal was tailored to address opposition from law enforcement groups, which is key to winning support from Gov. Mark Dayton. Law enforcement officials remain opposed to the Senate version of the bill. 

The House proposal is up for a hearing Friday afternoon in the House Rules Committee, which means it could be up for a full House vote as early as Tuesday. The Senate proposal is up for a final committee hearing on Monday morning which means it could be to the Senate floor as early as Wednesday. 

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