Legislature talks medical marijuana

A bill legalizing medical marijuana had its first committee hearing Tuesday.

Jessica Lee

The discussion of whether to allow medical marijuana in Minnesota kicked off in the state Legislature on Tuesday, marking the proposal’s first step in the legislative process.

The House’s Health and Human Services Policy Committee weighed the pros and cons of legalization in front of a packed hearing punctuated by emotional testimony.

Authored by Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, the measure would allow people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer or HIV to use marijuana based on a doctor’s recommendation. If it passes, individuals with state-issued medical marijuana identification cards could purchase or grow up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

It’s the first time the state Legislature is considering the change in state law since former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, vetoed a medical marijuana bill in 2009.

The bill already has strong DFL support, with 33 DFLers and two Republicans listed as co-authors.

Last month, a Star Tribune poll found that 51 percent of Minnesotans support legalizing medical marijuana, while 41 percent oppose changing state drug laws.

Legislative committees will discuss the bill in the upcoming weeks before it’s potentially taken up on the House or Senate floors. If passed, the bill would take effect this summer.