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Medical marijuana headed to conference committee

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Competing House and Senate bills to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota are headed to a conference committee that will try to craft a compromise.

The Senate triggered the negotiation process today by formally declining to accept a more restrictive version passed by the House last week. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, the chief sponsor of the Senate bill, has said the House bill falls short in providing access and security. But he said it’s now time for some give and take.

“This allows then for us to have more conversations and see if we can’t come to some middle ground and some agreeable solutions to the problems we all agree on," Dibble said.

Sens. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, and Branden Petersen, R-Andover, will join Dibble as Senate conferees.

The House negotiators have yet to be named.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Medical Association favor the House bill. Law enforcement groups oppose the Senate version and are neutral on the House bill. Both measures allow patients to use cannabis in pill and liquid form while prohibiting the smoking of marijuana plants.

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said she’s a little concerned about medical marijuana, given what she described as the “posture in the Senate.”

“There’s I think more interest in the Senate to pass something that’s more expansive than what we’re able to achieve in the House,” Murphy said. "I’m just concerned about marrying those two issues together and getting something to the governor’s desk.”

Still, Murphy said she’s optimistic that a compromise can be reached in the remaining days of the session.

UPDATE

The House appointed its conferees.  They are Murphy, Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, and Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake.