A bill that would legalize medical marijuana passed the Minnesota House on Monday, and for the first time in a decade of effort the bill will head to the governor’s desk.
The bill passed by a vote of 70 to 64, but it depends on Gov. Tim Pawlenty to become law; Pawlenty says he’ll veto it.
Legislators added increased restrictions to the final version of the bill in an attempt to assuage Palwenty’s concerns. One legislator might have taken his opposition too far, however, as Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, offered a series of amendments many in the House found offensive.
An amendment by Rep. Karla Bingham, DFL-Cottage Grove, eliminated the provision that Greater Minnesota patients be able to grow their own, and another by Rep. Joe Atkins said that only terminally ill patients could take advantage of medical marijuana.
But those restrictions did not calm the fears of Republicans. Emmer offered an amendment that would change every instance of “marijuana” in the bill to the word “pot.”
“We are not talking about medicine. We are not talking about marijuana. Let’s call it what it is: ‘pot,’” Emmer said.
His tactic did not go over well with bill supporters. Bill author, Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said to Emmer, “It might be cute, but the testimony of the families of people who were helped by medical marijuana are very moving.”
Rukavina continued, “I don’t know if you are trying to be cute, but I think your amendment stinks and I would urge members to vote against it.”
Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, said to Emmer, “We have a very serious issue in front of us. We are talking about the quality of people’s lives at the end of their lives, the sickest of the sick,” he said. “It’s not a matter we should be joking about on the house floor.”
Rep. Thomas Huntley, DFL-Duluth, recalled the struggle that members of his family faced with cancer and said to Emmer, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Emmer responded, shouting angrily to Reps. Bisguens, Huntley and Rukavina.
“I didn’t bring this here to be cute, to make a mockery. You are taking a drug that has serious consequences for young people in the country,” he demanded. “So before you start mocking me for doing what I think is right, think about that! This is no joke!
Emmer’s motion failed, but that did not stop him from offering two more: one to remove the word medical from the bill and one to replace “medical marijuana” to “authorized marijuana.” Neither amendment was successful.
Opposition came mainly from Republicans. Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, said, “It is absolutely wrong to refer to this as medical. It is wrong to use the pain and discomfort of sick people to sell this bill.”
Emmer said, “It is a gateway drug and it has very serious and real physical impact. All we are doing here is legalizing marijuana.” He added, “Let’s not send the kind of message to the children of the state that marijuana is OK.”
Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder: “The bill will be vetoed no matter what form it leaves here. I’m not willing to give up the war on drugs. If we leave this war more people are going to get sick and die.”
Buesgens, a Republican who supported the bill, said the implication that this was about legalizing marijuana and not about compassion was wrong. “Questioning the integrity of the people putting this forward is pushing the line. There is nothing dishonest about this.”
He added that this is a core conservative and Republican issue.
“Government should not get between a patient and their health provider. That’s in the republican national platform.”
The roll call
DFLers who voted “yes”:
Atkins, Benson, Bigham, Bly, Carlson, Champion, Clark, Davnie, Dittrich, Eken, Falk, Faust, Gardner, Hansen, Hausman, Haws, Hayden, Hilstrom, Hilty, Hornstein, Hortman, Huntley, Jackson, Johnson, Juhnke, Kahn, Kalin, Kelliher, Knuth, Koenen, Laine, Liebling, Lillie, Loeffler, Mahoney, Mariani, Masin, Morgan, Morrow, Mullery, Murphy, E., Nelson, Newton, Obermueller, Paymar, Persell, Peterson, Poppe, Reinert, Rosenthal, Rukavina, Sailer, Scalze, Sertich, Simon, Slocum, Solberg, Swails, Thao, Thissen, Tillberry, Wagenius, Winkler.
DFLers who voted “no”:
Anzelc, Brown, Brynaert, Bunn, Dill, Doty, Fritz, Greiling, Hosch, Kath, Lenczewski, Lesch, Lieder, Marquart, Murphy, M., Norton, Olin, Otremba, Pelowski, Ruud, Slawik, Sterner, Ward, Welti.
Republicans who voted “yes”:
Buesgens, Demmer, Garofalo, Gunther, Hackbarth, Kelly, McNamara.
Republicans who voted “no”:
Abeler, Anderson, B., Anderson, P., Anderson, S., Beard, Brod, Cornish, Davids, Dean, Dettmer, Doepke, Downey, Drazkowski, Eastlund, Emmer, Gottwalt, Hamilton, Holberg, Hoppe, Howes, Kiffmeyer, Kohls, Lanning, Loon, Mack, Magnus, McFarlane, Murdock, Nornes, Peppin, Sanders, Scott, Seifert, Severson, Shimanski, Smith, Torkelson, Urdahl, Westrom, Zellers.
By Andy Birkey
5/19/09 8:14 AM
The Minnesota Independent
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After heated debate, medical marijuana passes House, faces Pawlenty veto