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Medical marijuana bill to undergo first test Tuesday at committee level [UPDATE]

A bill that could legalize medical use of marijuana in Minnesota undergoes its first test tomorrow. It's scheduled for conversation at the House Health and Human Services Committee, and both sides of the debate have begun preparing their people.

At the moment, the list of speakers remains hush-hush as committee administrators want to avoid the possibility that either side will try to stack the room. It'll be made public about two hours before the meeting.

SEE ALSO: When will medical marijuana be legal in Minnesota?

However, supporters of medical marijuana say they're looking to tap caregivers and patients, including Minneapolis Councilman Andrew Johnson, who suffers from glaucoma in both eyes, as well as Joni Whiting, whose daughter Stephanie found relief from marijuana while dying of melanoma.

Patrick McClellan is another possible candidate -- he stopped working as a chef three years ago because of Muscular Dystrophy -- and plans to sign up to speak. The only thing that prevents his violent and debilitating spasms, he says, is marijuana.

"The people who suffer are people like me," McClellan says. "Why should I go to jail? How can the county attorney and law enforcement determine my health care?"

The strongest voice of opposition to the bill, as McClellan suggested, is the state's top cops and prosecutors, though there's no guarantee any of them will show up for what's strictly a conversation about health. Our messages have not been returned.

The hearing starts at 2:15 p.m. -- with an intermission between 4 and 6 -- in Room 10 at the State Office Building in St. Paul. It seems unlikely the bill will get stuck at the committee level indefinitely considering that eight of the 20 committee members, including the chair and vice chair, are among the bill's sponsors.

A word of advice: committee administrators say the chair will limit the scope of public testimony to health matters rather than the legislative implications of the bill on public safety. This is why the journalism gods invented comment sections.

:: UPDATE ::

Heather Azzi, political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care and the author of the medical marijuana bill, announced that several patients will be joined at Tuesday's hearing by Dr. Sue Sisley.

Sisley is a physician and medical marijuana researcher based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Testimony begins at 6 p.m.

In a statement, Azzi says:

It is well past time for Minnesota to adopt a law that allows seriously ill people to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. State lawmakers showed leadership on this issue five years ago, but their efforts were derailed by a governor's misguided veto. There is just as much need for this legislation now as there was then, and even more Minnesotans support it this time around.


-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to jmarx@citypages.com


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