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Minnesota Senate passes medical marijuana bill

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The Minnesota Senate approved a measure Tuesday evening to legalize marijuana use in Minnesota to treat certain medical conditions. The bipartisan 48-18 vote is large enough to override a potential veto by Gov. Mark Dayton, who has said he opposes some elements of the Senate bill.

Under the measure, patients with medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain could obtain marijuana at up to 55 dispensaries around the state. It would still be illegal to smoke the drug, but patients could ingest it using a vaporizer. The drug would also be available in pill or oil form.

The House may act on its version of the bill, which is more restrictive than the Senate's, as early as Friday.

The House version would implement an "an observational research study" for medical marijuana, with a goal of determining whether marijuana is effective in treating certain health conditions. It allows only one dispensary for medical marijuana, which would be supervised by the Minnesota Department of Health. And it also places more limits on who would be eligible to obtain the drug.

Like the Senate bill, it also would prohibit smoking of the drug.

The House proposal was crafted to address concerns of law enforcement groups who oppose the Senate version of the bill. Law enforcement say they are neutral on the House measure.

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