Medical marijuana continues to advance; activist is confident Dayton will sign bill

Today, the Senate Committee on State and Local Government advanced Sen. Scott Dibble's medical marijuana bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

If it's approved there, it could land on the Senate floor for a vote as soon as next week, Heather Azzi, political director of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, tells us.

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Rep. Carly Melin's companion bill is stuck in the House committee process, but Azzi thinks it's more likely that a relatively restrictive medical marijuana amendment to the health omnibus bill proposed by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) will reach the House floor.

Garofalo's amendment includes a penalty for those caught smoking marijuana along with many of the compromises Melin proposed to law enforcement before she gave up on that approach, Azzi says.

The version of the bill approved today by the Senate Committee on State and Local Government is almost identical to the one advanced by the Health and Human Services Committee last Friday. Patients couldn't smoke marijuana in public places or in front of children, and caregivers with felony drug convictions would be disqualified from the program.

It would allow people suffering from conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, and severe, debilitating pain to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The Minnesota Department of Health would issue medical marijuana ID cards and establish a tightly regulated system of alternative treatment centers and quality control labs, according to information provided by Minnesotans for Compassionate Care.

Dibble's bill doesn't allow for home cultivation of marijuana. Melin's does, but again, her proposal is probably a longshot at this point.

Azzi says that if the bill reaches conference committee, she expects the bill that lands on Governor Dayton's desk to look more like Dibble's version that either of the ones still alive in the House.

But will Dayton sign the bill? Azzi says at this point she's confident he will.

Asked if she thinks Dayton will sign a medical marijuana bill, Azzi says, "I do."

"Governor Dayton is a compassionate man, and he's learning more about the issue so he knows what he needs to do to make an informed decision," Azzi says. "I'm counting on it, and I'm doing everything I can do. I think the chances are good."

The legislative session is set to end on May 19.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at

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