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Medical marijuana stalls in Legislature

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A hearing on a bill that would legalize medical marijuana has been delayed after negotiations between lawmakers and law enforcement ended in a stalemate.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the Minnesota Compassionate Care Act (HF 1818) into law only if the bill comes with support from law enforcement.

Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, the bill's author, said the future of the marijuana legislation is unclear after weekend talks led nowhere, FOX 9 reports.

"I don't see a path forward until the governor changes his position," Melin said Tuesday.

Over the weekend Melin proposed a number of changes to the bill in an effort to satisfy the concerns of law enforcement groups, including as the Star Tribune reports, a proposal to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis as a pill, liquid or vapor, and impose penalties on anyone caught smoking medical marijuana.

Melin also offered to remove provisions allowing patients to grow their own pot plants, and to narrow the language patients use to describe their pain to address concerns that some people would fake a health condition to secure a prescription for marijuana.

The Associated Press reports Melin also agreed to require the state health commissioner to consult with law enforcement to set public safety standards for medical marijuana. But law enforcement officials rejected the compromise.

Medical marijuana is currently allowed in 20 states and Washington, D.C.

The state House Health and Human Services Policy committee approved the medical marijuana bill by a voice vote last week.

Melin released the following statement after asking to postpone Tuesday's hearing for the bill:

“I have attempted to compromise with law enforcement over the past few months and offered several major concessions, but they have been unwilling to accept a proposal that would allow Minnesota to join 20 other states in permitting patients safe, regulated, and legal access to medical marijuana. I will continue to stand with Minnesotans who support the Compassionate Care Act and remain hopeful we can make progress, but right now we are at a stalemate with law enforcement and I don’t see a path forward until the Governor changes his position.”

MPR blogger Bob Collins writes that it was Dayton who effectively killed the measure's chances of passage by siding with law enforcement on the issue.

Dayton issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon saying the two months left in the session are plenty of time “to negotiate the legitimate concerns of not only law enforcement officers, but also many medical, mental health and other experts,” according to the Associated Press. Dayton didn’t change his own stance in the statement.

Minnesota's doctors are wrestling with the medical marijuana question as well. Good research on the effectiveness of medical marijuana is limited, Minneapolis physician Dr. Jon Hallberg said in an interview with MPR News. As a result, he said it's been difficult for doctors to form an opinion on the issue.

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