Health & Human Services

Minnesota's Medical Marijuana Law Will Be Strictest

May 16, 2014

Thousands of Minnesotans with cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and other conditions would be able to legally treat their symptoms with marijuana under a legislative deal struck Thursday.

The proposal will make Minnesota the 22nd U.S. state to grant some legal level of access to the drug for medicinal purposes, but also will be the most restrictive marijuana law in the country. Minnesota will be the only medical marijuana state that would forbid smoking as a form of treatment and that would bar access to the drug in plant form.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who opposed legalization of medical marijuana for much of the session, pledged to sign the bill into law.

Under the compromise negotiated between the House and Senate, an estimated 5,000 patients could begin using the drug by July 1, 2015, picking up their supply at any one of eight distribution sites across the state.

“This means the world to my family,” said Angie Weaver, a Hibbing mother whose 8-year-old daughter, Amelia, suffers from a severe form of epilepsy that causes 30 to 50 seizures a day. “This is going to change my daughter’s life, and the lives of thousands of Minnesotans.”

Medical marijuana has traveled a tortuous path to legality. Stalling out midsession in the face of fierce opposition by Dayton and law enforcement, the issue gained new life in recent weeks but nearly stumbled when the House and Senate developed wildly different plans and seemed unable to reach agreement.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who sponsored the Senate bill, ultimately was forced to abandon his more wide-ranging proposal, which would have created a network of 55 dispensaries statewide and allowed treatment for a broader range of ailments that included intractable pain. That plan also would have allowed access to the plant itself, although not to be smoked.

“To be sure, there may be some folks who will not get what they need with this proposal,” Dibble said Thursday.

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