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Medical Marijuana Deal Reached, House and Senate Set to Vote

Created: 05/15/2014 10:43 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- In April, medical marijuana appeared to be dead in Minnesota, but now lawmakers are close to a deal.

On Thursday, leaders in the Minnesota legislature reached an agreement on a medical marijuana bill that lawmakers said will improve care and quality of life for thousands of Minnesotans.

The agreed upon bill represents years’ worth of work on the part of lawmakers and families fighting for access to medicine they say will transform their lives.

"She would go from 13 seizures a day to maybe one every two weeks,” said Melissa Gerads, whose daughter has epilepsy. “That would be great because it’s not just for my daughter, it's for all the families that suffer."

The bill is a compromise between the restrictive House and more expansive Senate versions, but the final version is one Governor Dayton said he will be happy to sign.

The law will permit the drug to be used in pill, oil, and vapor form for a variety of illnesses that include cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, and glaucoma.

"The fact that we were able to come together with an agreement that is going to be signed into law is thrilling for a lot of people that have been fighting very, very hard through blood, sweat, and tears," said Rep. Carly Melin, one of the bill’s chief sponsors.

The drugs will be available at eight dispensaries around the state, although it is unclear exactly where those will be located.

The exclusion of any smokable form of the drug was a big sticking point for many in law enforcement, including several in our area.

Although Gov. Dayton had said he wouldn't sign any bill unless law enforcement was on board, one local official said he never understood why law enforcement was involved in the first place.

"From my perspective, if they're seriously ill, a loved one is seriously ill, are you going to call me or are you going to call a doctor?” said Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson. “Because I'm probably going to disappoint you, and I think that to me makes sense."

Olmsted County Sheriff David Mueller tells ABC 6 News, "The biggest concern was people being allowed to smoke marijuana. We know it's been a significant effort to find some balance at the state capitol and, from our perspective, we think this solution fits very well for us."

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi was more reserved. She tells us, "I wish they wouldn't have done that. However, I am glad they left out the smoking provision."

Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels tells ABC 6 News, "The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association supported the bill as long as marijuana use was restricted and smoking was prohibited. I support the legislation as I understand it."

If passed, Minnesota would become the 22nd state in the nation to legalize some form of medical marijuana, joining neighbors Iowa and Wisconsin where legislation passed allowing similar marijuana byproducts earlier this year.

Although lawmakers have agreed on the new law, both the House and Senate still have to vote on the bill. 

That vote is expected to happen tomorrow, and if it passes and Gov. Dayton signs the bill, as he said he will, patients could start receiving the drug on July 1st, 2015.