Medical marijuana deal headed toward passage

Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and other members of the conference committee announced an agreement on a medical cannabis bill. Tim Pugmire/MPR News

Members of a conference committee working on a medical marijuana bill announced Thursday afternoon they have reached an agreement on a bill that Gov. Mark Dayton will sign.

Under the bill health care professionals could authorize people to get access to pill and liquid forms of cannabis through eight sites.  Smoking marijuana would not be allowed, but people who suffer from a variety of ailments would be allowed to vaporize some forms of cannabis.

Two manufacturers of cannabis extracts would be allowed in the state.

The bill creates a patient registry process for monitoring and evaluating the health impacts experienced by patients taking medical cannabis. The information is designed to help health professionals broaden their understanding of the benefits, risks and side effects of medical cannabis.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the agreement Friday.

The agreement does not allow leaf marijuana, but Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said it does allow “whole plant extracts,” which he said would take advantage of “entourage effect” that comes from various compounds in marijuana plans working together.

The House version of the bill served as the template for the agreement, Dibble said.

“This is a really exciting day for a lot of people,” said Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, who sponsored the bill in the House. She called the agreement compromise legislation that will help a lot of people in the state.

People who suffer from a number of illnesses including cancer, glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; Tourette Syndrome; ALS, seizures, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s Disease would be allowed to use cannabis extracts.

“It’s been like the wildest roller coaster I’ve ever been on,” said Jeremy Pauling of Montevideo, Minnesota, who said the measure would allow him and his wife Kristy to stay in Minnesota with the rest of their family to treat their daughter Katelyn, 7, who suffers from seizures.

He was referring to the fact that the bill was once considered stalled because law enforcement groups and Dayton opposed it. House leaders revived it by sharply limiting those who would have access to the drug and how widely it would be available.

Those changes led police, prosecutors and the Minnesota Medical Association to take a neutral position on the legislation, rather than oppose it.

“This bill is citizen government at its best. It has been led by parents, who deeply love their children, are anguished by their pain, and insist their government try to help them. As a father and grandfather, I both understand and admire their devotion,” said Dayton.