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This may well be the year the Minnesota Legislature passes legislation to allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest.

medical marijauna minnesotaDespite the scare stories you may have heard, that would be a good thing for all Minnesotans.

Scientifically, there is simply no longer any question that marijuana can relieve symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and certain types of pain that inflict great misery on thousands of our fellow citizens battling a variety of illnesses, from cancer and AIDS to severe pain from devastating injuries. That’s why medical organizations like the American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, American Nurses Association and Minnesota Nurses Association support safe and legal access to medical marijuana for the seriously ill.

That’s why a coalition of experts, including the Lymphoma Foundation of America and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America wrote, in a brief filed with the U.S.  Supreme Court, “For certain persons the medical use of marijuana can literally mean the difference between life and death.  At a minimum, marijuana provides some seriously ill patients the gift of relative health and the ability to function as productive members of society.”

Amazingly, some opponents still deny the growing mass of medical evidence.  Others have tried to frighten the public with side issues and red herrings.

They talk, for example, about the hazards of smoking, while failing to mention that marijuana does not need to be smoked to be used as medicine.  More and more patients are using vaporization — technology that provides the same fast action and precise dose control as smoking, but without the hazards of smoke.

Or they’ll tell you that that the legislation has inadequate controls and will somehow flood Minnesota with marijuana, failing to mention that in the 13 states with medical marijuana laws, no such thing has happened.

In fact, Minnesota’s legislation has some of the toughest controls in the country, similar to the successful laws in states like Montana and Rhode Island.  Eligible patients will be monitored through a statewide registration system, and anyone misusing their registration card will face felony prosecution — more severe than the standard petty misdemeanor penalties for illegal marijuana possession.

Most importantly, we now have real-world experience with medical marijuana laws in 13 states, containing nearly one quarter of the U.S.  population.  They work.  And they don’t cause an increase in marijuana use or any of the other problems you may have heard dire warnings about.

For example, in Vermont, the state government surveyed law enforcement statewide to determine impact of that state’s medical marijuana law.  The responses were amazingly consistent, with 90 of police managers surveyed reporting that their department had “not incurred any additional costs as a result of the law.” Eighty-four percent said the law had “not made it more difficult to enforce drug laws,” and 74 percent believed that the law had “not contributed to an increase in illegal marijuana use.”

When Rhode Island’s legislature first passed its medical marijuana law in 2006, it gave the measure a sunset clause, requiring a review and re-authorization after one year in order to keep the law in effect.  In 2007, legislators voted to make the law permanent by an even larger margin than it had passed by in the first place — majorities of more than four to one in both houses.  Does anyone really think that would have happened if the doomsday scenarios predicted by opponents had come true?

There is simply no excuse for further delay.  This must be the year we pass medical marijuana legislation and stop using our scarce law enforcement resources to arrest suffering patients for seeking physician-recommended relief.  

by Steve Murphy

Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
Copyright: 2009 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
Author: Steve Murphy
Note: Sen. Steve Murphy, a DFLer from Red Wing, is sponsor of the
medical marijuana bill that passed the Minnesota Senate last week.
Bookmark: (Cannabis – Medicinal)