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Minnesota Wants To Legalize Medical Marijuana, But Police Agencies Are In The Way

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Minnesota will consider passing legislation to legalize the medical use of marijuana, but police agencies are standing in the way.

A bill in the state House of Representatives would legalize the possession and use of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for people suffering from a range of medical conditions including cancer, Tourette's syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder or any other medical condition approved by the state Commissioner of Health.

Patients would first need to obtain an ID card by getting written certification from a doctor, says measure HF 1818, which was introduced by Rep. Carly Melin (D-Hibbing) last spring.

There's evidence that state politicians are open to passing such a bill. A similar effort was approved by the Minnesota House and Senate in 2009 before being vetoed by then-Governor Tim Pawlenty (R).

This time around, Governor Mark Dayton (D) says he'd sign the bill -- but not without the support of Minnesota law enforcement agencies. So far, not a single agency has lent its support to the bill. Their opposition, according to a report in local paper St. Cloud Times, is based on fears that marijuana's medical benefits are still unproven, that any legalization effort will increase the drug's availability to kids and that the bill is too broad in listing qualifying conditions.

The head of one police agency put it another way: He openly admitted that he was worried legalizing weed for medical purposes might make it harder for police to get federal drug war dollars. Minnesota receives millions in anti-drug money from the White House every year, and asset seizures from drug raids have become an integral part of state police budgets, Politics In Minnesota reported earlier this month.

As a result, Melin has said she may draft a compromise bill to legalize marijuana extracts in pill or liquid form. While such a law would be much more restrictive in terms of which patients could receive cannabis for treatment, some law enforcement agencies have said they might be open to such a measure.

"Obviously any compromise ... [is] disheartening for patients," Melin told the La Crosse Tribune. "But we’re facing reality around here, which is if we can get anything done there’s going to have to be compromise."

Minnesota voters, on the other hand, have shown they overwhelmingly support legalizing medical marijuana in all its forms. A St. Cloud State University poll from last year found 76 percent support for the issue.

HF 1818 has been referred to the Health and Human Services Policy Committee and is scheduled to have a hearing Wednesday evening. Melin said her compromise bill could be ready as soon as next week.

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