A bill that would allow some Minnesota patients to use medical marijuana is headed for a House floor vote after easily passing the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday. The bill, SF 345, passed the Senate last year, so the House vote is the only obstacle remaining before the bill lands on the desk of Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R).
But the governor remains an obstacle as well. Pawlenty has signaled he will veto the bill. A Pawlenty spokesman reiterated the veto threat Wednesday, saying the bill must include provisions to make it palatable to law enforcement.
The bill would allow qualifying patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and to obtain it from organizations created to dispense the drug. Those nonprofits can grow up to 12 plants per patient. Patients and dispensaries would be registered with the state.
"To me, this is the ultimate conservative issue," said Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover), a cosponsor of the measure. "It's about keeping the government out of the doctor-patient relationship."
While the bill passed out of committee with no debate, that will not be the case when it comes before the House as a whole. That should take place sometime in the next few weeks.
Preston resident Neil Haugerud, former sheriff of Fillmore County and a former state representative who suffers chronic pain from arachnoiditis (inflammation of the lining that surrounds the spinal cord), said, "I'm grateful to the committee for passing the medical marijuana bill, and I hope the full House and the governor will go ahead and make it law as soon as possible. Patients who are in pain shouldn't have to risk arrest and jail to get relief."
Twelve states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- presently allow medical use of marijuana. Medical marijuana bills are now under consideration in Illinois and New York, and an initiative is expected to appear on Michigan's November ballot.