Medical marijuana bill gets hearing tonight

A bowl of medicinal marijuana is displayed in a booth at The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo April 18, 2010 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A Minnesota House panel will take up a bill Tuesday that aims to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state, allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from several debilitating conditions.

Law enforcement groups strongly oppose the bill, but Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, the chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said she wants the focus of the hearing on the health issues of medical marijuana, not the law enforcement issues.

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"Sometimes it's hard to stop people from testifying if they want to. But no, I'm going to be very clear that if law enforcement wants to testify it better be about the health issues," she said. "To my knowledge, law enforcement generally doesn't have expertise in health issues."

Questions remain about the drug's usefulness in a medical setting. Randomized patient trials have been nearly impossible to conduct in the U.S. because marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act since 1970. Schedule I substances are regarded as having high abuse potential and no currently accepted medical use - which puts a damper on almost any treatment research. There have been a handful of international, randomized studies on medical marijuana. But in the U.S., the bulk of marijuana research has been observational, frequently involving individual or group case reports.

Liebling supports the bill. She said committee members will vote on the measure after hearing testimony.

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