The Minnesota Senate has passed legislation to legalize medical marijuana.
Senators voted 48 to 18 Tuesday for the measure, which would allow qualified patients legal access to cannabis in pill and liquid form. They could vaporize cannabis, but smoking would be prohibited.
Supporters said the bill could help thousands of patients obtain relief from pain and discomfort. But opponents questioned such claims. State Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, the bill's chief author, stressed that there would be strict limits on the access and amount of medical marijuana.
"The key of course is on a very limited basis, in a restrictive way, to allow these seriously ill patients whose doctors recommend to register for its use and gain safe access to a limited amount," said Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.
State Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said he sees marijuana as an inconsistent and unproven cure. Limmer said it should earn approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration before being made legal for medical use in Minnesota.
"Instead of relying on doctor's advice on any and all cures, whether it's snake oil, or blood-letting or the use of leeches, I think I'd rather rely a little bit more on a government-approved agency that can confirm whether or not it's a good product," Limmer said.
Of the 21 states with medical marijuana laws, none of prohibit smoking. Dibble made the change in committee last week to address the concerns of opponents. The House is poised to vote this week on a more limited bill.