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Our view: Credit Melin for marijuana measure

Give Rep. Carly Melin of Hibbing all sorts of credit. She stuck to it. She wasn’t deterred. Not even when it was widely accepted that legalizing marijuana for medical treatments was a hopeless cause this legislative session. There wasn’t enough time. And stiff opposition from Minnesota’s powerful law-enforcement community and from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton was insurmountable.

But last week there was Melin, front and center at a Capitol press conference, announcing that the House and Senate had reached a compromise agreement on a bill the governor was willing to sign, a bill deemed acceptable to law enforcement and that promises relief to many suffering Minnesotans.

“I am thrilled that we were able to accomplish (giving those who need it) safe, legal access to medical cannabis,” Melin said at the press conference, ignoring for the moment that some supporters of legalizing medical marijuana had started to label her a traitor or worse because of the way Minnesota’s measure changed through the session. “I think we put together a very good piece of compromise legislation. It’s going to help a lot of people throughout the state.”

The measure won’t allow marijuana to be smoked, making Minnesota’s law the most restrictive in the country. The beneficial compounds of marijuana would be made available in pill, liquid or oil form. No marijuana leaves or flowers are to be distributed.

And not just anyone will be able to complain of pain and be allowed to acquire medical marijuana. Only patients with debilitating conditions like HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma or terminal illness will be allowed to consume the drug, and only with a prescription from a doctor. Only pharmacists will dispense it, just like they dispense other medicines.

“It doesn’t matter what your party affiliation is or where you live in the state; we have all heard from people who live in our districts who will benefit from this legislation,” Melin said. “So there really was a compassionate effort by both sides of the (legislative) aisle to come together and draft this legislation.”

The state will register two marijuana manufacturers, perhaps as soon as December. Each will have up to four distribution centers. Even without dried marijuana leaves available, the centers will need to be closely watched. Other states have reported criminal activity, loitering and other problems outside dispensaries. Minnesota’s law appears restrictive enough to head off such troubles. Here’s hoping so.

And here’s hoping the pro-marijuana lobby isn’t back next session pushing for full legalization, including for recreational use, as has happened in other states. Melin’s measure provides relief to children and others who really need it. Lawmakers can make sure that sincere intent isn’t exploited or cheapened as a foot in the door or as a stepping stone to broader legalization.

At the news conference last week, Sen. Scott Dibble called Melin “an awesome champion and an amazing fighter for those … suffering (and for those) who have no voice of their own.” This session, with this issue, she also showed herself to be tenacious, flexible and willing to compromise politically to help her constituents personally.