Medical marijuana supporters push for House vote

Supporters of medical marijuana want the Minnesota House vote on the measure.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said Tuesday he intends to propose an amendment to the House Health and Human Services Policy bill that would allow people to use marijuana for medical purposes.

“This is an important issue and these children and families who would benefit from the medical use of cannabis deserve a vote on the issue,” Garofalo said.

Garofalo said he hopes his measure will encourage greater discussion of the issue.

Supporters of medical marijuana say it has enough votes to pass the House and Senate,  but note that Gov. Dayton has opposed the measure. Garofalo said he hopes Dayton will accept it if it’s contained in an overall health policy bill that has other issues that he could support.

“Hopefully there are sweeteners in there that give him an incentive to sign the overall bill,” Garofalo said.

But Garofalo’s amendment also puts House Democrats in a dicey political situation. Proceeding with a controversial topic could put them at odds with Dayton and police and prosecutors who oppose the bill.

Garofalo’s amendment would put some restrictions on the use of medical marijuana. It wouldn’t allow people to smoke marijuana, and even those who are registered and eligible to use it for medical purposes would face a $200 fine if they smoke it.

DFL House Majority Leader Erin Murphy said House leaders may delay consideration of the HHS Policy bill to allow more time to see if a compromise can be crafted by Dayton, law enforcement and supporters of medical marijuana. The bill was scheduled to be debated this week. 

“It would be useful to find a path forward with the administration on a solution to help the families with kids with epilepsy,” Murphy said. “I think there’s an opportunity to do that but not by taking an amendment up to Rep. Liebling’s bill.”

It isn’t clear whether Dayton is open a compromise. He proposed allowing the Mayo Clinic to conduct a study on whether children with epilepsy would benefit from medical marijuana. The measure was rejected by supporters because it wasn’t broad enough.

Dayton has been criticized for how he’s handled the issue of medical marijuana. Several parents say Dayton encouraged them in a private meeting to buy marijuana illegally to help their children cope with their illnesses. Dayton denied making that suggestion despite saying in a conference call with reporters that a distribution system is already set up. He said at a different point on that call that he was not advocating that people buy marijuana illegally.

Meanwhile a group that supports medical marijuana released another TV ad targeting Dayton. A spokeswoman for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care said the ad would air Tuesday night and Wednesday.

UPDATE:

Gov. Dayton doesn’t appear to be in a mood to compromise. Dayton told reporters Tuesday afternoon that if the Legislature wants to deal with the issue lawmakers should send him a bill.

“Let’s see them vote,” Dayton said. “They’ve hidden behind their desks for the whole session while I’ve taken this on. And they’ve been glad for the cover, so if they want to vote, let them vote.”

UPDATE:

The Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee will hold a hearing on medical marijuana on Thursday.