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Medical marijuana compromise bill continues to advance in Minnesota senate

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ST. PAUL — A bill that would provide legal access to medical marijuana for people with specific debilitating medical conditions continued to advance Wednesday in the Minnesota Senate. The Senate Committee on Judiciary referred the measure to the Senate Finance Committee, where it is expected to receive a hearing and a vote. The Senate Committee on State and Local Government approved the bill Tuesday, and the Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing approved it last week.

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“This week has been a breath of fresh air for seriously ill Minnesotans who would benefit from legal access to medical marijuana,” said Heather Azzi, political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care. “We knew this legislation would enjoy broad support once it received the consideration it deserves. The rate at which it is advancing finally reflects its urgency.”

SF 1641, sponsored by Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), would allow people suffering from conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, and severe, debilitating pain to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The Minnesota Department of Health would issue medical marijuana ID cards to patients and establish a tightly regulated system of alternative treatment centers and quality control labs.

“This measure is as safe and responsible as it is fair and compassionate,” Azzi said. “States around the country are successfully regulating and controlling medical marijuana, and Minnesota is perfectly capable of doing the same. We should be the next state to adopt a sensible medical marijuana law, not the last state.” 

A companion bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives, HF 1818, received approval in March from the Health and Human Services Policy Committee. Both bills have the maximum number of sponsors allowed — five in the Senate, including two committee chairs, and 35 in the House, including 12 committee chairs. Six additional House members have signed copies of the bill in order to demonstrate their support.

Three out of four Minnesota residents (76 percent) support making medical marijuana legal for seriously ill people whose doctors recommend it, according to a St. Cloud State University Survey released in January. Only 20 percent are opposed.

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