WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 13, 2014, 08:50 AM

Minnesota medical marijuana future foggy

ST. PAUL -- How attempts to legalize marijuana will proceed remained unclear Monday.

By: Don Davis, DL-Online, Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- How attempts to legalize marijuana will proceed remained unclear Monday.

House and Senate authors continued to oppose the other's bill after they discussed how to proceed. Both chambers overwhelmingly passed medical marijuana bills last week.

Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing, said that her goal is to get a bill passed so Minnesota patients can use the benefits of marijuana. The House passed a bill that would help fewer people and provides fewer places where marijuana could be picked up.

Gov. Mark Dayton says he likes the House version better and appears likely to veto a bill similar to the Senate one.

Sen. Scott Dibble, D-Minneapolis, said his bill has more security and is better for Minnesotans, even though police and medical organizations, as well as Dayton, oppose it.

"We will reach out to the Senate," Dayton said.

The governor said that even though neither bill allows marijuana smoking, the Senate version would give 2.5 ounces of the plant to patients. He said people who get the marijuana could smoke it, even if it were illegal, or sell it and make a profit.

The House bill only allows for three places where Minnesotans could buy marijuana. The Senate version offers 55 locations, but Dibble said he is willing to lower that to 24.

Dayton said he would expect some distribution centers in rural areas to lose money, perhaps forcing them to operate in deficits.

Dibble said his bill contains stricter public safety measures than the Melin version.

During the weekend, Dibble sent a letter expressing "very serious concerns with the House proposal that may prove it to be inadequate and unworkable."

He added that he thinks "a middle ground exists," but on Monday he could not say how a compromise would look. Neither did Melin.

"We are just going to continue discussions to see where we land in the next couple of days," Melin said.

The Legislature can pass bills only through Sunday before it runs up against the state constitutional deadline to quit for the year.

Melin said she does not want to wait a year to get a better bill. She prefers to get a bill passed quickly so children and others who could benefit from medical marijuana can get help.

"Maybe Sen. Dibble's bill, in his view, is a better bill," she said. "But just because it is a better bill doesn't mean it will become law."