Friday, March 17, 2006

Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee

Marijuana Policy Project

St. Paul, Minnesota – The Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee today approved Sen. Steve Kelley's (DFL-Hopkins) medical marijuana bill by a vote of 5-4. The bill, S.F. 1973, would eliminate criminal penalties for seriously ill individuals who use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

The bipartisan bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL-Duluth), Bob Kierlin (R-Winona), and John Marty (DFL- Roseville), was originally introduced in 2005, and was passed by the Senate Health and Family Security Committee by a 5-2 vote. It was then referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it was carried over until 2006. The Senate Judiciary Committee first voted 4-4 (with one committee member absent) on the bill on March 2, after hearing testimony from three medical marijuana patients, two former legislators, and Sen. Kelley.

"Patients battling cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or other painful and deadly illnesses should not have to risk arrest and jail if their doctor believes marijuana may ease their suffering," Kelley told the committee. "This legislation protects the sick, while establishing sensible controls."

The committee re-voted today, and approved the bill. It was then referred to the Senate Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. Rep. Tom Huntley's (DFL-Duluth) companion bill to S.F. 1973, H.F. 2151, was referred to the House Health Policy and Finance Committee last year, where it remains to be heard.

A statewide poll conducted by Zogby International in February 2005 showed that Minnesotans support medical marijuana by a 2-1 margin. The Minnesota Nurses Association, Minnesota Public Health Association, Minnesota AIDS Project, and Minnesota Senior Federation have all publicly expressed their support for the bill.

"I have tried numerous prescription medicines to alleviate pain and nausea but achieved little or no relief, not to mention unhealthy side effects. Marijuana has been the only medicine I have found to ease my pain and restore my appetite." said Don Haumant, a Minnesota resident who has been living with liver disease for more than 30 years. "When I use a small amount of medical marijuana, my body does not know my actions are not okay under Minnesota law. What is clear is that I look and feel healthier."

Earlier this year, Rhode Island was the 11th state to pass legislation that protects medical marijuana patients from arrest and incarceration. Medical marijuana legislation is currently pending in 11 states, including Minnesota.


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