Two identical medical marijuana bills were introduced to the Minnesota House and Senate today, opening the door for a serious discussion on allowing marijuana for approved medical conditions in that state.
Minnesota state house.
The bills would not only allow patients to grow and possess cannabis, but it would also create a medical marijuana dispensary system regulated by the state health department. The law would also allow reciprocity with medical marijuana patients from other states so long as their license is current.
Despite the session ending in two weeks, supporters say that now is the right time for such a proposal and point to polls showing that nearly two-thirds of Minnesota voters would approve of medical marijuana laws in the state. In fact, the bills are maxed out on cosponsors with 35 on the House bill and five on the Senate bill. Activists say that, at the least, this gets the bill in for discussion on the 2014 proposal.
They might hit a few political snags along the way, though. Already Gov. Mark Dayton has said he wouldn't support the bills without the approval of law enforcement in the state. They've predictably been against any such legislation in the past - namely a 2009 bill that passed the legislature only to be shot down by a governor veto - and probably aren't much more open-minded at this point either.
If passed, the bills would allow patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to 12 plants. There's also a provision allowing you to keep all that you cultivate from those 12 plants so long as it stays in your home. State registry cards would cost $100 for a one-year license.
Patients would also be able to designate someone as a caregiver responsible for growing the cannabis. The law also defines usable cannabis as being only the flowers, not the stems seeds, leaves and roots - an important distinction in court when police are trying to argue the entire weight of the plant (roots and all) into sentencing.
Dispensaries would have to go through a rigorous background check and pay as much as $20,000 in application fees to even get off the ground. Dispensaries would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of a school.
Doctors would be able to recommend medical cannabis for things like cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, Tourette's Sundrome, severe pain, severe nausea, Crohn's disease and - importantly - post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD has been left off of many medical marijuana states' qualifying conditions list, much to the disappointment of veterans groups. Patients would not be able to be denied any future medical treatment simply for being a medical cannabis user, including organ transplants and other surgeries. Patient jobs would be somewhat protected even if they failed a drug test, though language does give a loophole if "failure to [fire the person] would violate federal law or regulations". Custody and visitation rights would also not be affected by a person's medical marijuana status.
Law enforcement would have access to the registry though a "secure telephone or web-based verification system" that uses randomly-assigned patient numbers to verify only if a registry card is valid and if the cardholder is a registered grower if the police find a grow operation. Language in the proposal also prevents the database from being linked with any other databases now or in the future. Simply having a card on you would also not constitute probable cause for any crimes.
As written the department of health would begin licensing patients no later than October 1, 2013 and the effective date of the bills is July 1. But again, that's wishful thinking from activists who have conceded that it might be another year before the issue even sees the light of day again.