Medical marijuana debate continues at state Capitol - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Medical marijuana debate continues at state Capitol

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- The subject of medical marijuana has been an ongoing debate across both sides of the aisle, with opposition from both the governor and law enforcement.

It's the hot button issue that has kept lawmakers debating for months and now the spotlight shines on the differences between Senate and House bills.

In regards to accessibility, the Senate bill allows for up to 55 dispensaries throughout the state.

"They're then issued a card, that has a number of security provisions that can be verified, and then they're able to go to what we call an alternative treatment center, also known as a dispensary, that would probably be pretty close to their home," said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.

The more restrictive House bill would allow only one site to grow and distribute the marijuana to be regulated by the Department of Health.

It also includes a shorter list of illnesses and symptoms deeming a person qualified for the drug's use, but Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said this is something up for compromise in the future.

"I would like to see a really broad list," said Liebling. "I think that should really be up to the health care provider and not really dictated by law, and certainly not by law enforcement."

That brings in the other part of the debate. Both the governor and law enforcement have pushed back against the legislation.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, stated his concerns on legalization leading to recreational use.

"To allow a drug so unknown such as marijuana that's not regulated by the FDA and not at your local pharmacy, I think concerns a lot of people in Minnesota," said Ingebrigsten.

"I would just let folks know the concerns of law enforcement has brought to the table that have foundation that are reasonable, have been dealt with very effectively," said Dibble.

Those concerns include prevention of recreational use, security of distribution centers and ensuring strict identification procedures.

However, there is still plenty of work to be done in the weeks to come.

"I just really hope that we can pass a medical marijuana bill this year, and start getting treatment to patients who really need it," said Liebling.

The House could vote on its version of the bill as early as Friday, and once that's passed, it's back to the drawing board as the chambers prepare to compromise.
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