MINNEAPOLIS May 9 Minnesota state
Representatives on Friday approved a bill that would establish
an observational research study to make medical marijuana
available in liquid or pill form to patients suffering from one
of several severe illnesses.
Representatives voted 86-39 on a bipartisan basis to advance
the bill, which differs from a measure state senators approved
Tuesday that would make physician-prescribed medical marijuana
legal for a broad range of illnesses.
More than 20 U.S. states have approved medical marijuana on
a broad basis and others on a narrower basis, according to the
National Conference of State Legislatures.
The two versions had bipartisan support in the
Democrat-controlled legislature and are expected to be addressed
in a conference committee.
"I know it's easy for us sometimes as politicians or
legislators to just tell people that we'll wait another year,
but these families can't wait another year, they need relief
now," said Representative Carly Melin, the bill's sponsor.
Patients would have to be Minnesota residents and register
with the state health department to receive medical marijuana
from licensed pharmacists under the bill. The health department
estimated that about 5,000 people would enroll.
Participants would have to be diagnosed with one of several
conditions that include seizure disorders, cancer, glaucoma,
multiple sclerosis and other disorders that cause severe muscle
spasms, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, HIV and AIDS.
Patients would be allowed to vaporize the cannabis, but
would be prohibited from smoking it and would not be allowed to
use the plant or leaf form.
The Minnesota Medical Association supports the House
proposal, but not the Senate measure, which would make medical
marijuana legal on more broad terms.
Patients could possess up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of
marijuana at any one time under the Senate bill, which calls for
up to 55 dispensaries around Minnesota.
Patients could ingest the marijuana in various forms under
the Senate proposal, including heating the leaf form to just
short of combustion, but smoking would be prohibited.
(Reporting by David Bailey, editing by G Crosse)