Minn. medical marijuana talks at stalemate

Carly Melin
State Rep Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, spoke at a committee meeting on legalizing medical marijuana in this March 4, 2014 file photo.
Matt Sepic / MPR News

A push to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota was in limbo Tuesday after a key lawmaker said she had reached an impasse in negotiations with law enforcement to get their support.

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Rep. Carly Melin said she had conceded to virtually all demands from law enforcement over the weekend but still didn't have them aboard. A House committee hearing, the second on the issue, was postponed at her request.

"Law enforcement won't support any bill that would result in helping any patients," Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The governor has to get involved."

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Gov. Mark Dayton, who has made his support conditional on law enforcement embracing the bill, said the two months left in the session are plenty of time "to negotiate the legitimate concerns of not only law enforcement officers, but also many medical, mental health and other experts." Dayton didn't change his own stance in the statement.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said in an email before the governor's statement that "it does not appear to me that a compromise is going to happen this session."

Champlin Police Chief Dave Kolb, co-chairman of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said in an email earlier Tuesday that state law-enforcement groups believe Melin's latest bill still "would result in increased youth access and use of marijuana, that it would too easily be misused for the illegal transportation of marijuana, and the list of qualifying medical conditions was too broad and ripe for abuse."

Melin said she had agreed to drop an option for patients to smoke marijuana and to impose a penalty for smoking marijuana. She also said she had agreed to replace "severe and debilitating pain" as a condition for use with "intractable pain" to reduce the number of people who would qualify. She also agreed to require the state health commissioner to consult with law enforcement to set public safety standards for the program.

"We appreciated the conversations (with Rep. Melin), but at the end of the day, we still saw plant-form marijuana being distributed," Kolb said. "That is very problematic because it stymies law enforcement."

Medical marijuana is allowed in 20 states and Washington, D.C.