Medical marijuana exceptions make it harder to enforce the law, sheriff says

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Medical marijuana hearing
State Sen, John Marty, DFL-Roseville, center, questioned Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, right, who urged caution and proper testing of marijuana during a Senate committee hearing discussing a bill that would legalize medical marijuana, Thursday, April 10, 2014, St. Paul, Minn.
Glen Stubbe / The Star Tribune via AP

Limited legalization of marijuana is back on the table at the Capitol -- and that has some in law enforcement concerned.

A Senate bill that got a hearing on Thursday would allow the sale of marijuana at so-called alternative treatment centers, but not home cultivation. People with debilitating medical conditions would be eligible to buy. Parents of children with severe epilepsy have been pushing for legalization.

Those exceptions, though, would make it harder to enforce the law, Wabasha County Sheriff Rodney Bartsh said Friday on the MPR News program "Morning Edition."

"It's really going to have law enforcement out in the field throwing their hands up going, 'Is this legal? Is that legal? Well, that one's not. And this one's ...," said Bartsh, who's also president of the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association. "It's just going to sort of put a whole new set of issues out there for the law enforcement world."

Lawmakers have been debating limited legalization of marijuana for much of this year's legislative session, although a measure in the House failed to win a floor vote.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he's sympathetic with the concerns raised by law enforcement.

"The governor knows where we stand on this," Bartsh said. "We're so worried about the future of this. This is a bill that's for today to combat the dramatic suffering that some people are at the Capitol talking about. But I'm worried about the 40 years from now and my grandchildren growing up."

Medical marijuana preceded full legalization in Washington state and Colorado earlier this year.