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Dayton would sign marijuana bill if law enforcement concurs

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In an interview with the Associated Press Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton said he is urging supporters of medical marijuana to work with law enforcement to find common ground. He said he would sign a bill legalizing marijuana for medical purposes if sheriffs, prosecutors and police get behind it.

He also said if the law is to change, it should be by legislators and not a public referendum.

His predecessor, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, cited law enforcement concerns when he vetoed a 2009 bill that would have permitted terminally ill people to use marijuana.

Legislative proponents of reform said they hope the governor's comments might propel progress in future talks with law enforcement groups.

"They oppose everything at this point," said Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing.

The Center for Ethics and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota - Duluth sponsored a panel discussion last month on a proposal to allow the purchase of small amounts of marijuana from non-profit dispensaries in each county, with a doctor's recommendation.

Northland's News Center reported the hall was full and the debate lively.

"It is currently illegal federally and it seems to me that we should have the discussion from a Federal perspective. Should it be a Schedule one drug or should it not be a schedule one drug," said Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom,who is opposed to legalizing medical marijuana.

"People will only be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces and it has to be a recommendation from their physician and there will only be one dispensary in each county," said Rep. Melin.

WDIO reported other questions raised in the forum included regulation of marijuana's potency, which illnesses would qualify for a prescription, and penalties would for misusing the system.

NORML, a national organization working to legalize marijuana, tracks developments in every state. On its website it argues that marijuana kills fewer people than tobacco. It cites research about majrijuana's beneficial effects and says the medical community should hold more sway for legislators than the law enforcement community.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom has been a vocal opponent of legalization. At a late November press conference, he told the Star Tribune that marijuana is not medicine.

“Rather, it is an addictive drug that is the most widely abused controlled substance in our state and nation," he said. "In every state where legislation of this nature has been adopted, serious problems have occurred."

Twenty other states and Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana in some form.

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