With her 7-month-old son Anthony Bryan riding, Gerri Hoffman documented the Yes we Cannabis! rally to legalize marijuana in Minnesota at the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. Wednesday, April 23, 2014.  Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

Supporters of legal marijuana packed the Minnesota Capitol rotunda today.

Lawmakers are debating a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes, but members of Minnesota’s Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are pushing a much broader effort – full legalization of marijuana.

No bills have been introduced this session to legalize marijuana but Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, told the rally she supports it to increase state revenue and reduce arrests for possession.

“Let’s create a system right here at this Capitol where we can tax, where we can regulate the sales and increase the revenue at the state of Minnesota so we can invest more wisely in all of us.”

Backers of medical marijuana were careful to distance themselves from the rally.

“The larger legalization effort is distracting from what we’re proposing to do,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. “The focus of this bill is very much on people who are ill and suffering from very chronic symptoms, conditions and diseases and have no relief available to them now.”

But Nathan Ness, organizing director for Minnesota’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws, said there’s no reason to limit marijuana use to people who need it for medical reasons.

“We’re rescuing the issue back from the strictly medical community. We don’t want this thing to be controlled by pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists from DC,” he said. “When you actually go around the state and talk to people, they do support full legalization.”

Both groups are at odds with police and prosecutors who don’t want to increase access to marijuana.

A Senate committee is scheduled to debate the medical marijuana bill on Friday.

The Minnesota Senate has passed a package of workplace protections for women.

Lawmakers voted 51-14 today for the bill, which is known as the Women’s Economic Security Act.

Under the bill, companies with government contracts would have to certify that they pay men and women equally. Employers would no longer be able to prevent workers from disclosing their wages, family leave time would be expanded, and pregnant and nursing employees would get more accommodations.

The measure also establishes grant programs to assist women in nontraditional jobs and those who own businesses. There’s also a feasibility study for a state retirement savings plan. The total cost of the bill is $2.7 million.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said the bill is a comprehensive approach to narrowing the pay gap.

“I think this is a good step,” Pappas said. “We probably can never do enough as part of government. A lot of it is the culture and kind of corporate America just agreeing that they have to treat their women employees equally to their male employees, and provide the kind of accommodations that keep women in the workforce.”

All of the no votes came from Republicans, some of whom questioned the need for the bill.

Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said he thinks Minnesota is already a good place to work for men and women.

“I will not stand here and vote for a bill that promotes one gender over another, Hall said. “If you work hard, if you compete better than others, you will find greater opportunities, whether you’re a man or a woman.”

The House passed a similar version of the bill earlier this month, but a conference committee will need to work out some differences.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he supports the bill.

poligraph-misleadingGOP Senate hopeful Mike McFadden is trying to convince voters that Sen. Al Franken voted to exempt himself from new rules in the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s a clip from McFadden’s first television ad.

“Franken voted for Obamacare and voted to exempt himself and Congress from enrolling in it.”

There’s only a sliver of truth to this claim.

The Evidence

McFadden’s campaign is referring to a vote Franken cast in March, 2010 on an amendment sponsored by Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Here’s what the amendment said:  “The President, Vice President, each Member of Congress, each political appointee, and each Congressional employee shall be treated as a qualified individual entitled to the right under this paragraph to enroll in a qualified health plan in the individual market offered through an Exchange in the State in which the individual resides.”

Along with nearly every other Senate Democrat, Franken voted against the amendment.

It’s also true that Franken ultimately voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act.

But here’s the critical piece of information the McFadden ad leaves out: the bill already required members of Congress to get coverage through the exchanges.

In fact, months earlier, Grassley won enough support in the Finance Committee to include that language in the bill. The amendment Grassley offered in March, 2010, went above and beyond that requirement to include the President, other officials and their staff.

So, when Franken voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act, he was effectively voting to require members of Congress to get their insurance through the exchanges.

The Verdict

There’s a nugget of truth to McFadden’s ad. At one point, Franken voted against an amendment that would have required members of Congress to get health insurance through the exchanges.

But the truth ends there. McFadden doesn’t point out that the Affordable Care Act already included that requirement.

His claim is misleading at best and comes close to being outright false.


Tom Erikson, spokesperson, McFadden for Senate

Alexandra Fetissoff, spokesperson, Franken  for Senate