Lawmaker's view: Let’s bring relief to suffering MinnesotansI introduced House File 1818 last year to create a compassionate medical marijuana program for Minnesotans with serious illnesses. This legislation and its Senate companion enjoy strong bipartisan support, as evidenced by the co-sponsors, including second author Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, and 38 of our colleagues, both Republican and Democrat.
By: Carly Melin, Duluth News Tribune
I introduced House File 1818 last year to create a compassionate medical marijuana program for Minnesotans with serious illnesses. This legislation and its Senate companion enjoy strong bipartisan support, as evidenced by the co-sponsors, including second author Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, and 38 of our colleagues, both Republican and Democrat.
Twenty states and Washington, D.C., already allow the medical use of marijuana. These states have changed their laws, not on a whim, but for the same reason we seek to change Minnesota law: Marijuana has been shown to work as medical treatment. It is less harmful than many prescriptions, especially painkillers, and has never caused a fatal overdose.
Compared to other states’ programs, our bill is restrictive. To qualify, a patient would have to have a written recommendation from his or her medical practitioner and would have to be diagnosed with a qualifying condition, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, debilitating pain or seizure disorders.
Once a qualifying patient submitted a recommendation to the state and received a medical marijuana program identification card, he or she would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Patients would receive their marijuana from licensed and regulated medical-marijuana dispensaries. Typically, there would be only one dispensary per county.
The bill includes strict security parameters. Dispensaries would be required to store their medical marijuana in secure, locked, and state-licensed and state-inspected facilities. If a person is caught unlawfully distributing marijuana to someone without a medical marijuana card, he or she would be subject to felony prosecution.
Nearly 40 percent of Americans now live in states that treat patients who find relief from medical marijuana with compassion and not the threat of criminal prosecution. It is time for Minnesota to follow suit. Some of our most vulnerable citizens cannot afford to wait.
Consider the case of 7-year-old Amelia W. of Hibbing. Amelia suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare and catastrophic seizure disorder. She has suffered more than 1,000 seizures and has regressed developmentally, even losing her ability to speak. The 23 different types of traditional anti-epileptics she has been prescribed have provided only short-term respite. Yet, in Colorado, parents of children with Dravet Syndrome are successfully treating their children with a strain of medical marijuana that is consumed orally and is not psychoactive. Not only has it dramatically reduced the number of seizures children have, it has resulted in regained cognitive functions. It has been so successful CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta did a feature about it.
Consider also Patrick M. of Bloomington, Minn. Patrick suffers from muscular dystrophy and has debilitating attacks of painful muscle contractions that leave him unable to walk or even call 911. He has found medical marijuana is better at relieving his spasms and severe pain than his prescriptions, one of which carries side effects so severe it can cause death.
Clearly, marijuana helps patients. So why do we continue to label our neighbors as criminals?
One reason is because some law enforcement organizations actively oppose this compassionate proposal. While I recognize law enforcement will play a role in enforcing medical marijuana laws, I do not think law enforcement should decide medical treatment options. Medical decisions are best left to our state’s licensed practitioners. After all, millions of Americans abuse prescription pills every year, but that does not mean we outlaw those medications for everyone else.
Marijuana has real and effective medical benefits. We know through the experiences of other states that we can adequately regulate a compassionate program. It is time to bring relief to suffering Minnesotans. It is time to enact a medical marijuana program in the North Star State.
Carly Melin of Hibbing represents District 6B in the Minnesota House.