In a surprising change of policy that have many rejoicing – and just as many dismayed – Minnesota lawmakers have agreed to the legalization of medical cannabis in the state, albeit with certain restrictions. Convinced in part by the clamor of parents of sick children who would benefit from medical marijuana, lawmakers passed legislation on an issue that many thought was dead in the water. Governor Mark Dayton has gone on record to state that he would sign the law in to effect, although response hasn’t been unanimous.
While many received the news with jubilation, some felt that the new law was insufficient to deal with the needs of the medical marijuana market. More similar to the restrictive House policies than the laxer stance of the Senate, the law only allows for the use of cannabis in oil, pill, and vapor form. Under the new law, the use of the actual plant would continue to be restricted.
Although the new law is seen by many as an insufficient compromise, others are grateful for the groundbreaking change in policy. One such person is Angie Weaver from the community of Hibbing, who is the parent of an 8-year-old girl afflicted with a rare and severe type of epilepsy. For Weaver, the policy would significantly change the life of her daughter as well as those of thousands of people in the state, despite its deficiencies.
Under the guidelines of the bill, a maximum of two manufacturing plants would be allowed in the state, along with eight dispensaries. Although this is more than the number of facilities allowed under the House bill, the Minnesota law also imposes more restrictions on the forms in which cannabis would be made available and in which it could be legally consumed. This has caused some concern among medical marijuana advocates who claim that certain conditions required the smoking and/or vaporization of marijuana.
Even with the restrictions imposed by the new laws, many remained critical of the legalization of medical cannabis in the state. Some warned that the new bill would pave the way toward the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, while others warned that it would increase marijuana use among minors and encourage the rise of illicit drug use. One of the most vocal opponents to legalization is Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), who described marijuana is the “third killer” to be allowed in Minnesota, after tobacco and alcohol.
As testament to the stiff opposition that legalization proponents have encountered, Minnesota is the only one among the 21 states that have legalized medical cannabis to explicitly ban the smoking of the drug. In contrast other states have simply left out smoking as one of the approved methods for ingesting medical cannabis. Those involved in the state’s medical marijuana program would also face criminal action if they are found guilty of using and/or dispensing marijuana for non-medical purposes. The Minnesota law allows the use of medical marijuana for eight medical conditions, among them AIDS, cancer, and glaucoma. There is also a pending amendment to the House bill that, if passed, will allow the use of cannabis for cases of “intractable pain”.