MMJ: Differing Approaches in MN. House, Senate
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MMJ: Differing Approaches in MN. House, Senate
Posted by CN Staff on May 05, 2014 at 12:29:42 PT
By Christopher Snowbeck, Pioneer Press 
Source: Pioneer Press 
Minnesota -- With medical marijuana bills advancing at the Minnesota Capitol, both supporters and critics have been invoking the phrase "Wild West" when debating the merits of legislation.Without more scientific evidence about risks and benefits, the prospect of legalized medical marijuana "would be kind of like the Wild West of medicine," argued Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, during a hearing in April.
In a Senate committee last week, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, used the metaphor in a different way -- arguing that desperate patients currently face a Wild West situation of buying marijuana on the street, without knowing what they're getting."Or they're going without," Dibble said, "or they're being forced to move to Colorado."The legislative showdown got more dramatic by week's end with the emergence of a House bill that would let fewer patients have medical marijuana, and only in the context of research studies. During a hearing Friday, the state health commissioner raised practical questions about how those studies might be implemented.Here's a look at some questions and answers that emerged during a busy week for medical marijuana legislation at the Capitol.Q. Who could get medical marijuana?A. The House bill from Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, would allow cannabis for patients diagnosed with one of eight conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS and seizures that are characteristic of epilepsy. The state health commissioner could add to the list of qualifying medical conditions, though some House members suggested Friday that the bill should specify rules for doing so.The Senate bill covers the same conditions plus a few more, including patients with intractable pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.The Senate bill creates a process for evaluating public petitions from patients who want to add diseases to the list of eligible conditions. It also lets the health commissioner add conditions in consultation with an advisory committee, though the Legislature could override those decisions.Q. Where would patients get marijuana?A. The House bill would allow for one in-state manufacturer of marijuana if researchers can't obtain cannabis from a research supply maintained by the federal government. Distribution of medical cannabis to patients would come in the context of medical research studies.The Senate bill creates a statewide network of 55 dispensaries that would grow marijuana plants and sell medical cannabis to patients. Dispensaries would be regulated by the state Health Department.Under the Senate bill, patients would need a doctor's recommendation to obtain an ID card from the Health Department before purchasing medical cannabis.Q. Why not provide medical marijuana in pharmacies?A. Proponents of the Senate bill say federal rules effectively prohibit pharmacies from dispensing marijuana.Q. Would patients be allowed to smoke marijuana?A. Neither bill allows marijuana smoking.The Senate bill lets patients use a vaporizing device for marijuana. Under the House bill, patients could vaporize marijuana only with in-person supervision by a clinical investigator.Q. How else might patients take their medicine?A. The House and Senate bills let patients take medical cannabis in the form of pills or liquids.Q. What does all this have to do with kids?A. Powerful testimony in support of medical marijuana legislation has come from families with children who suffer from serious seizure disorders.Some Minnesota families have moved -- or are considering moves -- to Colorado, for example, so that children can take advantage of a form of medical cannabis called Charlotte's Web Hemp Oil. One such child, for example, currently is in Colorado receiving oil that's mixed with her food three times per day, according to testimony in a House committee Friday.Other families are considering a move to Oregon to access treatment.Q. Can't the Charlotte's Web oil simply be brought to Minnesota?A. "I wish we could do that, but federal law prohibits us," Melin said during the committee hearing. "It's absolutely necessary -- to have a successful medical cannabis program -- to be able to grow it in the state."Q. Do patients prefer the House bill or the Senate bill?A. Some patients don't like the narrower focus of the House bill. Some echo questions raised by Minnesotans for Compassionate Care -- the lead lobbying group for medical marijuana -- about whether research studies will ever get off the ground.But patients also question whether Gov. Mark Dayton would ever sign the Senate bill, since he's pushed for an agreement that law enforcement officials can live with. Law enforcement groups made a strong showing last week in opposition to the Senate bill, but they are neutral on the House bill.Q. Why might studies not get off the ground?A. Heather Azzi of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care said Thursday that she believes the House bill would have doctors distribute marijuana to patients, which she said isn't allowed under federal law. That's why similar bills in other states haven't gotten off the ground, Azzi added.During a Friday hearing in a House committee, Melin said: "There are some issues with physicians ... directly dispensing medication to patients." So, the bill would let doctors explain to patients how to obtain medical cannabis from a qualified employee of the study's principal investigator.Q. Would patients pay for the marijuana?A In the House bill, patients would pay a fee for the medicine and its manufacturing, Melin said Friday. She said patients would not pay to participate in research studies.In the Senate bill, patients would pay a $100 fee to get access to a dispensary and then would be charged for the marijuana they use. The dispensary fee would be discounted to $25 for low-income residents.Q. Could patients grow their own marijuana?A. No -- not in either bill.Q. Are there costs to taxpayers?A. Yes. But the costs are unclear, and they depend on the bill.The House bill would provide $2.2 million for clinical studies over a two-year period ending June 2017. It appropriates $450,000 to cover the cost of Health Department oversight for the studies and $50,000 for a legislative task force on medical cannabis research.As of Friday, a fiscal note on the House bill was not available.The Senate bill would create state general fund costs for law enforcement activity related to marijuana, according to a preliminary fiscal note produced last week. Costs during the fiscal year ending June 2015 are projected at $873,000.Bill supporters, however, question whether those costs cited in the fiscal note actually will materialize. Critics question whether the fiscal note failed to estimate costs for local governments.Costs to the Health Department for regulating dispensaries and testing laboratories would be covered by fees paid by those dispensaries and labs. Dispensaries would pay $15,000 per year, while labs would pay $5,000 per year.Q. What's next?A. The House bill is scheduled to be heard Monday in the Ways and Means Committee. The Senate bill is scheduled for a Monday hearing in the Senate Finance Committee.Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)Author: Christopher Snowbeck, Pioneer Press Published: May 4, 2014Copyright: 2014 St. Paul Pioneer PressContact: letters pioneerpress.comURL: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by afterburner on May 06, 2014 at 11:12:37 PT
Too Timid
Your Viking ancestors would be ashamed of the timidness of these proposals: kowtowing to outdated notions of illegality from LEOs, research plans that have been stalled in other states. Allow home grown to ensure that patients will be served before investors. Simply making money is not a sufficient reason for a business to operate. A business should provide a useful product or service to the public.
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