Medical marijuana faces unclear future

Even after changes to the original bill, legislators haven’t reached a consensus on what the proposal would entail.

Medical marijuana faces unclear future

Roy Aker

Arguments for and against legalizing medical marijuana are heating up at the Capitol — but until compromises are agreed upon, the proposal is stalled.

The bill, authored by Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana for patients with certain medical conditions to help alleviate symptoms like severe nausea and seizures. While supporters say the change in medical practice is necessary, some disagree, saying that the bill’s language leaves room for abuse.

The proposal says patients with conditions like cancer, glaucoma or HIV would be able to use 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana with the use of a state-issued identification card, authorized by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Last week, the bill cleared its first hurdle and passed a House committee, but Melin has since amended it to compromise with its opponents. She removed the option for patients to smoke the drug and eliminated at-home cultivation.

But Dr. Jacob Mirman, who leads a homeopathic clinic in St. Louis Park and supports the bill, said the most efficient way for marijuana to enter a patient’s system is through inhalation. He said that the other forms the bill lists, such as liquids and pills, don’t work as well.

The bill also includes vapor versions of the drug, which Mirman said work well but can be expensive.

On Tuesday, a meeting to discuss the bill was postponed due to the lack of consensus. Melin issued a statement asking Gov. Mark Dayton to take a heavier hand in the legislation’s process. Dayton has said his support for the bill depends on support from law enforcement.

With two months left in the session, there’s plenty of time to negotiate the proposal and weigh the concerns of law enforcement officers, medical and mental health experts and others, Dayton said in a statement.

Mirman said he would agree to stipulations law enforcement wants in the bill as long as only patients with serious medical conditions and doctor prescriptions have access.

In a Minnesota Medical Association survey of 35 physicians last week, about one-third said they support the bill.

Some doctors argue that legalizing the drug would make it easier for people to use it for recreational purposes.

Still, Mirman said he’s had patients with serious medical conditions who admitted to using illegally obtained marijuana to treat their symptoms, and this proposal would alleviate that problem.

“I’d like to have the ability to refer them to somebody who can actually prescribe it,” he said.

The MMA hasn’t officially taken a stance on the issue, spokesman Dan Hauser said, but it plans to survey 800 doctors in the coming weeks and potentially announce a position.

Currently, 21 states permit medical marijuana.

So far, Minnesota’s bipartisan bill has gathered 35 co-sponsors. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, has authored a Senate version, but it hasn’t received a hearing yet this session.