Public Health Commissioner testifies against Minnesota medical marijuana bill


The senate version of a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical use in Minnesota got its first hearing Thursday, undergoing two hours of testimony and proving that the issue is not dead. Time ran out before members of the Health, Human Services and Housing Committee could vote, but they plan to resume discussion when they return from Easter/Passover break.

The hearing came less than 48 hours after Gov. Mark Dayton lamented that legislators have “hidden behind their desks” while he’s been portrayed as the sole voice of opposition. His corner has grown to include more than one member of his own cabinet, including the state’s public health commissioner Ed Ehlinger, who would play a large role in Minnesota’s medical marijuana program if ever established.
The primary caregiver to a spouse with a debilitating condition, Ehlinger testified that the goal of using marijuana as medicine is worthy but lacks scientific merit. The problem, he argued, is that the plant is more complex than some well-meaning doctors might realize and that it has not gone through the level of testing required of other meds to determine things like proper dosage, purity, and side effects.
“We are concerned,” the commissioner says, “that (the bill) bypasses this rigorous approach and leaves patients to self-administer powerful chemicals and in essence conduct their own experiments.”
Rather than green light a distribution system for a range of qualifying patients, Dayton’s office is proposing that $2.2 million be pumped into research of CBD — the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that has been effective in controlling infantile seizures.
Ehlinger, however, argued that results in the area of child epilepsy were “spotty.” He suggested that stories of dramatic improvement were just that — stories — although he offered no evidence of his own besides vague references to a study and colleagues in states with medical marijuana programs already in place.
His message of caution and delay was seconded by state human services commissioner Lucinda Jesson, another Dayton appointee, who focused her brief remarks on the risks of marijuana on adolescent brain development.
The Minneapolis City Pages has more.