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Senate committee bucks law enforcement, passes medical marijuana bill

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A bill to allow medical marijuana use in Minnesota continues to roll along in the state Senate, after it was given up for dead a little more than a week ago.

The state Senate's Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to advance the medical marijuana measure to another committee, despite fierce opposition from several law enforcement officials -- including the state's top cop, Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman -- who testified against it, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

The bill has now been approved by several Senate committees and could end up on the floor of the Senate shortly.

The Judiciary Committee passed the bill through "without recommendation," a maneuver which essentially keeps the bill alive, the Star Tribune reports, adding that the committee took a voice vote, so individual votes were not recorded.

The measure is authored by state Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and would allow patients to have access to up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and severe pain.

During the five-hour hearing, law enforcement officials repeated their concerns that any relaxation of the laws against marijuana use could put the drug into the hands of young people and would send a message that marijuana is safe to use.

"We simply do not view marijuana as some harmless substance, but instead see it as an addictive drug as well as a gateway drug," said Dennis Flaherty of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, according to the Pioneer Press.

Flaherty told the committee his group might be willing to allow marijuana extracts such as pills or oils, but don't want the smokable form to be legal, MPR News reports. He said they would support more testing of nonsmoking forms of the drug.

Gov. Mark Dayton earlier proposed such a study, to be conducted by the Mayo Clinic, but it was rejected by medical marijuana supporters.

Dibble also rejected the idea, saying some patients would need to be able to smoke marijuana to get relief from their symptoms, according to MPR News.

The bill now moves to the Senate Finance Committee.

A companion bill in the House has not seen any action over the past few weeks, so the ultimate outcome of the issue is still very much up in the air.

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