By McKenzie Martin
It was marijuana day in the House agriculture committee Wednesday compliments of Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who brought hemp seed chocolate truffles to make her proposals go down easy.
She pitched her bills -- one to allow Minnesota farmers to grow medical marijuana for export and another to pave the way for potential hemp farmers -- using that irresistible word: Jobs.
“Both bills, really, are jobs bills,” said the Minneapolis DFLer. “Jobs and employment and economic development.”
But she also promised committee members listening to the presentation of her pot-friendly bills would give them the most fun they would have all session.
The medical marijuana measure wouldn't legalize its use in Minnesota but would let farmers grow it and send it to places where it is legal.
Peter Landherr, a medical marijuana farmer in Colorado, said he would move his operation to Minnesota if he could.
“If I could grow healthy medicine for people that would allow me to be here, that’s exactly what I would do,” said Landherr, a Minnesota native.
Republican committee chair Rep. Rod Hamilton, who has Multiple Sclerosis, said he would qualify for a prescription if Minnesota made medical marijuana legal. But he said he would not use it and could not support it as a legislator and still tell his children to steer of drugs.
“It’s a mixed message to my children and a difficult one to overcome,” said Hamilton, of Mountain Lake.
As members continued to ask questions relating to the logistics of the potential marijuana farms, Hamilton said he was “hesitant to even ask these types of questions” in fear of giving anyone “false hope” as to his support for the bill.
Kahn did not ask for a vote on that measure.
The hemp bill had more support. It has a bipartisan team of 30 co-sponsors.
Even if it became law, it wouldn't have much might. Federal law bans the crop's growth. Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of Cannabis sativa, which is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a controlled substance.
Eight states have approved hemp farming, including nearby North Dakota.
“Each time a state passes a bill like this it sends a stronger message to the federal government,” Kahn said. “I think this is the first step and I think we should make it.”
McKenzie Martin is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.