[May 17, 2014]MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Minnesota
lawmakers on Friday approved legalizing medical marijuana in pill or
liquid form for a limited number of patients suffering from severe or
Minnesota senators voted 46-16 and representatives 89-40 to
approve the measure with bipartisan support and send it to Governor
Mark Dayton, who has said he will sign it into law.
More than 20 U.S. states have approved medical marijuana and
cannabis programs, according to the National Conference of State
Opponents of the bill said they were concerned it could lead to
wider use of marijuana in Minnesota, particularly among children,
and serve as a first step toward legalization of the drug for
recreational use. Colorado and Washington state have both legalized
marijuana for recreational use and other states are considering
"This is not about moving down the path to recreational use," said
state Senator Scott Dibble, a sponsor. "This is about getting
something into the hands of people who now lack it, who have no
other available options that are any good at all."
Senators and representatives approved separate bills earlier in May
and the final version was based on a House proposal for an
observational research study of medical cannabis.
Enrollment is not capped, but the state health department has
estimated participation at about 5,000 people. The Minnesota Medical
Association remained neutral on the approved bill.
Medical marijuana would be available starting July 1, 2015. The
measure permits two manufacturers of medical cannabis and eight
distribution points around the state.
The measure allows the use of whole plant extracts, but not the
leafy plant itself. Patients would be allowed to vaporize the
cannabis but would be prohibited from smoking it.
Patients would have to be diagnosed with one of several conditions
to apply to the state for enrollment in the program. Minnesota will
collect data on how patients respond to the drug.
Conditions covered include cancer that is causing severe or chronic
pain, severe vomiting or wasting; seizures including epilepsy;
glaucoma; multiple sclerosis and other disorders that cause severe
muscle spasms; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; HIV; AIDS; and Crohn's
People suffering from terminal illnesses also could enroll if they
are suffering from chronic or severe pain, vomiting or wasting. The
health commissioner also could expand the list of covered diagnoses.
(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)