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Dayton Opposes Eased Marijuana Laws

Posted at: 12/07/2012 11:54 AM
By: BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday he remains resistant to decriminalizing the possession of marijuana for medical or recreational use, despite recent steps other states have taken to relax their laws.

Dayton, a Democrat, addressed the issue in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, declaring, "I don't think we need another drug operating in our society."

Eighteen states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and Colorado and Washington have decriminalized possession of small amounts for any purpose.

Proposals to allow medical marijuana in Minnesota have been stalled by opposition from law enforcement. But advocates plan to push again in the 2013 legislative session. Dayton said he won't budge unless law enforcement signs off on a deal that includes strict controls on how accessible the drug would be.

"As long as law enforcement believes whatever is being proposed is going to make society more dangerous, I'm going to honor their concerns," Dayton said.

Dayton said he's concerned by reports from other states where doctors have readily dispensed prescriptions.

"In California, it's just become a joke, you just find doctors who will write you a prescription almost sight unseen," he said. "It's essentially just legalized use of marijuana by anyone. It's a terrible way to go about making public policy. Decriminalization or legalization - that should be considered straight up and not backed into."

Dayton also told AP he would move to expand gay rights by giving public employees access to domestic partner-benefits as part of their next contract. "I'm going to do my best to put it in there," Dayton said.

Dayton is a gay-rights supporter who has previously pledged to sign a law legalizing gay marriage if the Legislature were to adopt one. Voters last month defeated a ballot measure that would have enshrined Minnesota's current ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution. That law has faced court challenges.

Minnesota briefly offered health benefits to employees' domestic partners a decade ago under Gov. Jesse Ventura, an independent. But Republicans balked and GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty removed the benefits when he took power in 2003.

Dayton's administration circulated an offer including domestic partner benefits during talks this year, but the governor said they pulled the provision to keep them from certain defeat in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

If the benefits are adopted, domestic partners of state employees would become eligible for family health and dental coverage.

Democrats take over the Legislature next month.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)