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Statewide law-enforcement groups not budging on medical marijuana bill

REUTERS/Anthony Bolante
A bill to be considered during the 2014 legislature would allow one medical marijuana dispensary per county and sets forth conditions for prescribing, licensing, growing and dispensing the marijuana.

When the Minnesota Legislature convenes in February, it will once again take up a longstanding debate on the legalization of marijuana for people with serious illnesses.

A medical marijuana bill cleared the Legislature in 2009, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Carryover bills from 2013, authored by Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) in the House and Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) in the Senate, await their first hearings in the 2014 session, which begins Feb. 25.

In a Dec. 30 interview with the Associated Press, Gov. Mark Dayton encouraged proponents of medical marijuana to collaborate with state law-enforcement agencies on moving forward with any legislation, and said he would “sign something that the law-enforcement community can support.”

But in interviews this week, representatives of statewide law enforcement groups held their ground in opposing the legislation.

“Our position has always been that we’re not in favor of another drug becoming available on our streets here in Minnesota and affecting public safety,” said James Franklin, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association. “We just don’t see that it’s appropriate for Minnesota quality of life.” Franklin said it would be “wise for Minnesota to sit back” and watch what happens in such states as Colorado.

His sentiments were echoed by other law-enforcement leaders, including John Kingrey, executive director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.

“We see the devastation that marijuana and other illegal drugs have caused,” he said. “We need to have some time to see how this is happening in other states.” Medical marijuana “is ending up on my kid’s college campus in Fargo, North Dakota, and that tells me it’s not very tightly regulated.”

2.5 ounces allowed

The proposed legislation would allow qualifying patients to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana for the treatment of debilitating conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Tourette’s syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, PTSD, and Crohn’s disease, or any condition or its treatment that produces wasting syndrome or severe pain, nausea, seizures, or spasms.

The number of dispensaries allowable per county would vary by size, with Hennepin County having as many as three, three counties having two, 45 counties having 1, and the rest having none. The proposed law sets forth conditions for prescribing, licensing, growing and dispensing marijuana. A person who intentionally diverts marijuana for nonmedical purposes would be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than two years and/or a fine of not more than $3,000.

Dibble said he had received a communication Thursday from Dave Pecchia, executive director of the Minnesota chiefs of Police Association, saying that the state’s Law Enforcement Coalition was willing to meet with legislators only (not witnesses), and that its position against the law had not changed.

“In their own words they have closed the door and their minds to a) hearing from people who are actually affected, and b) considering any elements of the bill or discussing the substance of the legislation that causes their opposition so that a path could be opened for possible compromise,” Dibble said.

A public-policy standoff

In formal statements issued in 2009 statewide law-enforcement associations outlined their general reasons for opposing medical marijuana and their specific concerns over the proposed legislation, including the risk of diversion, increased risk of drug abuse and “threats to the safety of patients, caregivers, growers, innocent third parties and the general public.”

Dibble said of law enforcement: “I don’t think they’ve provided a single argument that isn’t completely fallacious.” For example, he said, claims “that anyone would be able to access marijuana for any purpose is just blatantly false. The bill is written very, very tightly.”

The law-enforcement statements further argue that marijuana has not been approved for use by prominent national health organizations.

That’s no reason not to move forward, said Dibble, who argued that there’s plenty of evidence to support the drug’s efficacy for such things as controlling pain, nausea and seizures. “It is unconscionable that we let people suffer the way we do when there’s something out there that might be available to them – if we can do it in this controlled fashion,” he said.

Correction

This article originally misstated the number of dispensaries allowable per county. It will vary depending on population size, with Hennepin County having as many as three, some counties (with more than 300,000 people) having two, some counties (with more than 20,000 people) having one, and some (with fewer than 20,000 people) having none, for a total of about 54.

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Comments (20)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 01/09/2014 - 02:07 pm.

    Still curious why a column on Mental Health & Addiction is fixated on cannabis, which is shown to be not addictive and has very little relationship to mental health.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/09/2014 - 05:38 pm.

      Minnpost

      You must still be under the impression that Minnpost is an objective news source. A bunch of its board members and funders are corporate education “reformers”, and so we get Beth Hawkins’s cheerleading for that cause. I expect that somebody has a similar interest in marijuana prohibition.

      Did you read the County Attorney Association position papers on this? Its just bald-faced lies. I can’t believe that DFLers like Choi and Freeman would sign on to that kind of garbage.

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/09/2014 - 11:45 pm.

        Wow

        I didn’t think that comment was going to see the light of day. You guys are all over the map on your comment censorship.

  2. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 01/09/2014 - 02:58 pm.

    Breaking News…

    the NRA isn’t budging on gun control either. Any statement such as Kingrey’s (“marijuana and other illegal drugs”) automatically eliminates them from being qualified to talk about the subject. The fact that we’re only considering legalizing it for medical use is embarrassing enough.

  3. Submitted by jason myron on 01/09/2014 - 06:03 pm.

    Law Enforcement is against it

    because all of those easy forfeitures of cash and possessions pays for their shiny new paramilitary gear. This isn’t about public safety, it’s about funding.

  4. Submitted by Brett Shaff on 01/09/2014 - 09:16 pm.

    Should not be their decision

    It is long past time we stopped allowing Law Enforcement to drive Law Making.

  5. Submitted by Brandon Seaver on 01/10/2014 - 04:54 am.

    Coward

    It is NOT up to Law Enforcement to decide what laws we have, that is our representatives job, We asked for legal weed, they passed the bill and the governor vetoed it. Dayton says he will do the same. Lets just over ride the veto!!!!!

    Been a nurse for over 20 years at the UMMC Fairview. NEVER had a patient cause they smoked too much pot. Decriminalize it all together.

    Dayton should talk to healthcare providers and leaders in states where it works.

  6. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/10/2014 - 06:00 am.

    Prescription Drug Abuse

    Is rampant in this country. Should we also make all of those drugs illegal?

  7. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 01/10/2014 - 09:05 am.

    Did he really say that

    ““We see the devastation that marijuana and other illegal drugs have caused,” he said. “We need to have some time to see how this is happening in other states.” Medical marijuana “is ending up on my kid’s college campus in Fargo, North Dakota, and that tells me it’s not very tightly regulated.”

    Lets see, California has had medical marijuana for over a decade – but apparently that is not long enough for this clown.
    Which devastation does marijuana cause – I guess the ability to create an original thought has eluded him – just recite the trope handed down from law enforcement.
    Proof that medical marijuana is ending up in his kids college campus would be good, but I guess proof is too much to ask from an attorney.
    Montana allows for medical marijuana – roughly 400 miles from Fargo, but I guess that thriving illicit market has a reach across ND – otherwise he is just lying about that part.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 01/10/2014 - 01:23 pm.

      The last time I heard propaganda like that,

      it was in a Sonny & Cher anti-drug film that my 7th grade class had to watch back in 1969. It included a dramatization of a girl at a party who takes one hit of the demon weed, hallucinates like the final scenes of 2001 – A Space Odyssey and then leaps out the window because she thinks she can fly. Years later, while in college, we were all wondering where we could score some of that…

  8. Submitted by charles thompson on 01/10/2014 - 09:14 am.

    Let’s skip the medical and legalize hemp in all its’ forms. This column continues to advocate for the foot dragging community. Neither anarchy nor divine retribution is going to come to Colorado anytime soon.

  9. Submitted by bea sinna on 01/10/2014 - 09:54 am.

    medical marijuana

    Rob Levine: how about the relationship between debilitating pain, nausea, seizures and mental health, depression, anxiety!

  10. Submitted by Bob Lancaster on 01/14/2014 - 08:10 pm.

    61% of drug arrests are for cannabis in MN

    Simple fact is, Marijuana is a CASH COW BUSINESS for law enforcement. It gets them all kinds of guns and toys. They see Medical Cannabis as a step toward full legalization. They dont want to complicate how easy it is to send someone away for a long long time right now to pad their stats and, plus it sends more money to the bloaded prison system.

  11. Submitted by Caligula Emperor of Rome on 01/24/2014 - 06:12 pm.

    Let’s keep Minnesota the “Mississippi” of the Midwest

    I just want to warn everyone out there. If you do marijuana once, you’ll be hooked forever, then you’ll die and then you’ll go to Hell. Let’s all have a drink and toast Hennepin Co Sheriff Stanek and Judge Backstrom and their zombie elitist toadie Mark Dayton! They’ll keep us safe. Think of the children! But furthermore, think of how much money the private prison lobby, the private prison guard lobby and the alcohol, tobacco and prescription drug lobbies will make keeping the children locked up in private prisons! We should be so proud as Minnesotans!

  12. Submitted by Cee Jay on 01/25/2014 - 05:36 am.

    Medical

    The pot is always going to be on North Dakota campus, it’s always going to be everywhere. It always has been and it always will be, long before medical has ever become legal. So it is not going no where, they might as well tax it instead if letting it go untaxed on the black market, because it is here anyways. And is it worth clogging up jail space with marijuana criminals? It’s just an old way of thinking, and we will have to wait for the closed minded old generation to be replaced by a new free thinking generation. It will happen,and the state and federal governm ent should get on board, because they can’t stop it.

  13. Submitted by Jay Dee on 01/28/2014 - 08:35 am.

    Another drug available?

    IT ALREADY IS AVAILABLE and has been for decades.

    I’ve noticed that many people who are against cannabis legalization seem to greatly underestimate the detrimental effects of prohibition, if they believe there are any at all. Some of these effects are:

    •The deaths of countless people involved on all sides of the “war” including law enforcement and bystanders
    •The spending of 100’s of billions of our dollars seeking out, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating otherwise law-abiding citizens
    •The redirection of valuable police time from solving and preventing true crime
    •The filling of our jails with non-violent offenders, forcing the release of dangerous criminals early
    •Increased crime as dealers and buyers have no legal recourse to resolve disputes
    •Increased exposure to hard drugs as cannabis consumers buy from suppliers who have and push them
    •Increased corruption within the legal system
    •The invasion of our civil liberties, which in America we hold in especially high regard
    •The prevention of people from receiving effective medicine
    •The prevention of people from receiving decent employment, scholarship money, and student aid due to their “criminal” record, which affects not just them but their family as well
    •Increased support of tremendous multinational criminal networks
    •Increased public mistrust and disdain for our legal system and government, which is devastating to our country

    Why are we forcing police to deal with something that is, if anything, a public health issue? Why are we criminalizing people for something that is safely enjoyed by millions of Americans, something that 58% of Americans believe should be legal?

    After decades of research, the relative safety and medical efficacy of cannabis has been established well enough to conclude that it is significantly safer and more useful than alcohol. Cannabis prohibition is based on irrational fears and paranoia from an archaic era and is a miscarriage of justice. Cannabis must be legalized, taxed, and regulated similar to alcohol. Use the tax money to fund programs that will benefit kids, including honest education on the dangers of all substance abuse and use, alcohol, cigarettes, and cannabis included. Prohibition policies do not work for popular things that are safely enjoyed by many…especially not in a country that values liberty, justice, and freedom.

    “Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” -Abraham Lincoln

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