Key Lawmaker: Medical Marijuana Talks at Stalemate

Updated: 03/11/2014 10:24 PM By: Steve Tellier

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota may have just gone up in smoke. The main sponsor of the bill said she's reached a stalemate with the law enforcement community, which remains opposed to medical marijuana in any form.

Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said she sees no path forward on the issue -- at least until Gov. Mark Dayton changes his position. He has previously stated, and did so again on Tuesday, that he won't sign a bill that isn't supported by the law enforcement community.

Medical marijuana supporters said he is effectively handing his veto power to police.

One week ago, several Minnesota families told lawmakers medical marijuana could change their loved ones' lives.

"I feel personally invested in these families to try to get something done for them," Melin said.

But on Tuesday, Melin announced negotiations with law enforcement had stalled.

"We've made so many concessions already, and this was kind of as far as we could go," Melin said.

Melin met with law enforcement leaders this weekend. She offered a compromise, removing from the bill the options to both smoke medical marijuana (patients would have to take it in pill form, use a vaporizer, or use some other administration method) and grow it at home. Her proposal also would have limited patients who qualify for medical marijuana pain treatment only to those with "intractable pain."

"If they would have accepted this proposal, it would have resulted in the strictest medical marijuana law in the country. But they rejected it," Melin said.

She was talking about the Minnesota Law Enforcement Coalition, made up of police officers, police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors. That group said it will only support the medical use of derivatives --- substances made from marijuana -- and would only want patients with certain conditions like epilepsy, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis to be treated -- not those with chronic pain. They remain staunchly opposed to actual marijuana plants being legalized in any way.

Chief Dave Kolb, co-chair of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association said, "'legal' transportation of marijuana would immediately and easily be abused as cover for illegal transportation and sale."

"We don't take alcohol away from everybody just because some people are alcoholics. We don't take guns away from everybody just because some people misuse firearms," Melin said. "Right now, we're punishing patients who really need this medication just because there are people out there that could abuse it, and I don't think it's fair to the patients."

Dayton's office released a statement saying, "The two months remaining in the legislative session provide ample time to negotiate medical marijuana legislation, which incorporates the legitimate concerns of not only law enforcement officers, but also many medical, mental health, and other experts."

The medical marijuana bill had already passed one House committee with bipartisan support before Tuesday's scheduled hearing was cancelled at the last minute.