Minnesota doctors are schooling up on the topic of recreational marijuana so they can take a more active role in any debate on whether the state should legalize the mood-altering drug.
A private forum arranged Thursday by the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) will review the evidence regarding marijuana’s effect on health and crime rates and solicit opinions from doctors on whether the organization should take a stand.
A bill to legalize recreational marijuana received a hearing this spring by the State Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, which voted against it 6-3. Advocates doubt that is the last word, with Gov. Tim Walz supporting legalization.
To date, the association has adopted no formal policies on legalization, though certain forms of marijuana are now legal in Minnesota for medical use under specific conditions. However, a recent MMA survey showed that doctors are interested in the topic and want to be more involved in any legislative debate regarding recreational use of the drug.
“More and more discussion is taking place in clinics about the drug,” said Dr. Doug Wood, MMA president. “We want to be prepared if legislation to legalize recreational marijuana ever gains traction.”
The Legislature in 2014 legalized cannabis for medical purposes, in liquid or pill forms and only for use against certain conditions. Patients can now receive certification from doctors to take cannabis for 13 medical conditions, and as of July 1 patients will be able to take it for Alzheimer’s disease.
More than 25,000 people have received certification in the last four years to receive medical cannabis, which is produced in Minnesota exclusively by two vendors. The state has required certified users to report the health impact of their medical cannabis use for research purposes.
Thirty-three states permit use of marijuana — which remains an illicit, controlled substance under federal law — but only 10 allow its use recreationally.
Thursday’s doctor forum in St. Paul will focus on marijuana’s impact on youth, pregnant women and people with mental illnesses, as well as the disproportionate impact that criminalization of the drug has had on minority communities.