Congress wants to protect states' medical weed programs from federal crackdowns

Congress wants the DEA's hands off medical marijuana.

Congress wants the DEA's hands off medical marijuana.

Despite Minnesota legalizing medical marijuana, an air of uncertainty hovers over clinics throughout the state. For the first time, the stethoscope brigade will be allowed to use kush to fight cancer and other illnesses, but their leeriness has the state program off to a slow start.

Legislation making its way through Congress could help calm doctors' nerves.

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[jump] Last week a U.S. Senate committee tucked a provision into a funding bill aimed at shielding states' medicinal ganja programs from federal crackdowns. Earlier this month the House pinned a similar Democrat-led amendment to an appropriations bill. Rep. Tom Emmer was the only Minnesota Republican who joined Dems in approving the measure. 

Republican Congressmen John Kline and Erik Paulsen remain mean to sick people. 

According to a recent survey conducted by the Minnesota Medical Association, 68 percent of Minnesota doctors say they don't plan to register for the state's program. After the first week of enrollment, only 104 practitioners registered, making it difficult for patients to find a healthcare provider to certify them. As of June 8, just eight patients were approved to pick up medicinal cannabis when it becomes available July 1.

Besides concerns over limited research, docs are uneasy about medical weed being illegal in Uncle Sam's eyes. “There are a lot of unanswered questions here,” MMA president Dave Thorson tells Minnesota Public Radio. “It will be a work in progress, we just have to realize that.”

Congress' recent efforts would at least attempt to answer one question by preventing the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with states' medical marijuana programs. The move renews a clause first rolled into a trillion dollar spending package President Obama signed in December.

“What we’re witnessing today are the death throes of the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” Michael Collins, policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs, said in a press release.

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