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