Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Minnesota, One to Come Tuesday in South Dakota

By chillinwill · Jan 24, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    With the number of medical marijuana states growing at the rate of one a year, and with Michigan last November becoming the first state in the Midwest to embrace therapeutic cannabis, two Upper Midwest state legislatures are about to grapple with the issue -- again. A bill was introduced last week in the Minnesota legislature, and one will be introduced next week at the South Dakota statehouse.

    In Minnesota, the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, SF 97, would allow patients with a physician's approval and who have registered with the state to grow up to 12 plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, or to obtain that same amount from a state-regulated nonprofit. To be eligible, an individual must suffer from one of a long list of "debilitating medical conditions," including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, Hepatitis C, and MS.

    The bill is nearly identical to legislation that last year passed the state Senate, but stalled in the House after Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) threatened to veto it. Pawlenty said he would veto any medical marijuana bill opposed by law enforcement.

    This year's bill includes support from members of Pawlenty's party. Two Republicans are coauthors, and three more have signed on as cosponsors. Similar bipartisan support is expected in the House when a companion bill will be introduced next month.

    That's not surprising given the broad popular support for medical marijuana among the Minnesota electorate. In a KTSP/SurveyUSA poll conducted last May just after Gov. Pawlenty's veto threat, 64% supported medical marijuana. Even 53% of Republicans did, something for Pawlenty and GOP legislators to keep in mind.

    In neighboring South Dakota, Bob Newland of South Dakotans for Safe Access has reported that a medical marijuana bill will be filed next Tuesday by state Rep. Gerald Lange (D-Madison), with a hearing set for the following Monday.

    Another Democrat, then Rep. Ron Volesky (D-Huron) introduced a medical marijuana bill in 2001, but it went nowhere, being deferred until "the 41st day" of the 40-day session. In 2006, South Dakota suffered the ignominy of becoming the only state to defeat an initiative that would have legalized medical marijuana. That effort came close, but ultimately fell short with 48% of the vote.

    The South Dakota bill will have at least two cosponsors, Reps. Ed Iron Cloud (D-Porcupine) and Martha Vanderlinde (D-Sioux Falls), a registered nurse. While the odds are against this bill passing, the effort may help Newland lay the groundwork for another try at the initiative process in 2010.

    January 23, 2009
    Drug War Chronicle

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  1. chillinwill
    Re: Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Minnesota, One to Come Tuesday in South Dako

    Medical marijuana backers push bill in Minnesota

    ST. PAUL, Minn. - Supporters of medical marijuana are enlisting family members of those who have died in slow agony as they push to get a bill to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's desk this session, even though he remains opposed.

    Opponents include a former drug dealer who said authorizing seriously ill patients to obtain and use marijuana would just open the door to mischief.
    The bill took its first step on Wednesday, passing the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee on a divided voice vote after an emotional hearing.

    "If medicinal marijuana or medical marijuana will alleviate someone's pain in their dying days, who in the hell are we to say no to that?" said Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, who said he became a supporter after watching his mother die of cancer.

    Joni Whiting - who lost her 26-year-old daughter, Stephanie, to cancer in 2003 - broke down crying after reading a statement about the ordeal and the relief marijuana brought Stephanie. Whiting said she was anti-drug but came around when she saw how it helped her daughter. She said someone left a package of marijuana on her doorstep after she asked friends how to buy it.

    "I have never known who to thank for it but I remain grateful beyond belief," Whiting said.

    She added: "I would have no problem going to jail for acquiring medical marijuana for my suffering child."

    But others raised doubts.

    James Fruehling, 37, said he is in drug treatment after serving more than seven years in prison for dealing drugs. He said using marijuana led him to stronger drugs and then dealing, and when he heard about the medical marijuana proposal he started thinking of angles to game the system, such as outbidding patients for pot grown for their treatment or simply robbing growers.

    "All this would do is make the job of drug dealer a lot easier," said Fruehling, who wouldn't disclose where in Minnesota he lives.

    Harlan Johnson, who heads the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said he has concerns even though legislative sponsors said the bill includes regulation and oversight to prevent abuses.

    "Maybe so, but once the toothpaste is out of the tube it's very difficult to put back in," he said.

    Pawlenty said Wednesday his long-standing opposition hasn't changed.

    "I really am taking my cues from the law enforcement community," the Republican governor said after an unrelated speech near the Capitol. "They're the ones that have to deal with the drug issue in Minnesota. They're on the front lines of it. They have the expertise and the knowledge, and they're indicating this is a major, major concern."

    Backers of medical marijuana include Democrats and Republicans. A Senate vote approving a similar bill in 2007 didn't follow party lines. The full House has yet to vote on the issue.

    Koering said he and fellow Republican Pawlenty don't agree on everything, but he considers the governor to be an open-minded person and hopes he will listen to the case for medical marijuana.

    The Associated Press - Wednesday, February 11, 2009
    Jamestown Sun
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