Scott Dibble: the Senate medical marijuana bill is better, and here's why

The fight for medical marijuana moves this week to a conference committee, where two very different bills must be reconciled into one package before dropping on Gov. Mark Dayton's desk.

Dayton has suggested that he's more inclined to sign the House version, which Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) reshaped into an "observational study," over the Senate version -- a prospect that alarms many patients and activists.

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Those concerns were highlighted Sunday by Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis). In a letter to Dayton and Melin, Dibble laid out how his bill -- which underwent extensive review and revision through the committee process -- would reach more Minnesotans in need and cost less while balancing the demands of public safety officials.

"Paradoxically," Dibble writes, "law enforcement is 'neutral' on the House bill, while standing opposed to the Senate measure, despite the fact that the Senate measure is far superior in addressing their ostensible concerns."

For instance, The Senate version makes it a felony for any patient caught diverting their own supply. The House version is silent on this issue.

Troubling to many supporters, as well as Dibble, is the House version's specification that a single company take care of manufacturing (from two distribution centers as opposed to Dibble's 55). They see this as an obvious monopoly and lament that, should this company suffer a power outage or fire, the entire program would be in jeopardy.

Thanks to law enforcement, the House version allows patients to consume marijuana only in oil or liquid forms, which are more expensive to process and less efficient carriers of the plant's medicinal elements. What's more, the House has elected to give Public Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, who's opposed anything but a very limited research study, absolute control over the forms of marijuana made available. If he so chooses, Ehlinger has the power to delay the program until 2017.

"I fear that this is another pretext to simply doing nothing," Dibble writes.

Then there's the question of cost. The House version requires $5 million over the next three years, whereas the Senate version is designed to pay for itself while costing patients less money to register.

Dibble concludes his letter by warning that the House bill by itself could prove to be "inadequate and unworkable," though he concedes there might be a middle way.

Read the entire letter on the next page.

h/t -- Bluestem Prairie


Medical Cannabis Letter to Governor Dayton and Senator Melin from Senator Dibble

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