Minn. medical marijuana push to wait until 2014

Medical marijuana backers to wait until 2014 session for planned push to change Minnesota law

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Minnesota won't have a showdown over medical marijuana this year.

Heather Azzi of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, a pro-marijuana policy group, said Wednesday that bills to permit marijuana for medical reasons will be introduced in the next week or two. But Azzi, the group's political director, said the legislation won't move through Legislature this year.

"We just had a lot of background work to do before we got started," she said.

Supporters hope to latch onto efforts to relax marijuana laws in other states. Voters in Washington state and Colorado approved ballot measures last fall making it legal to possess small amounts of marijuana. It was a step beyond laws in 18 states that give people with certain conditions clearance to use marijuana after getting a physician's approval.

Medical marijuana proposals are circulating in at least a dozen states. Last week, Maryland's health secretary expressed support for legislation there, arguing the federal government has not brought charges against any state employees in other states who may have been involved with distributing medical marijuana.

Minnesota lawmakers approved a medical marijuana bill in 2009, but it ran into a veto by then-Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Current Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton told The Associated Press in December that he wasn't interested in decriminalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use. "I don't think we need another drug operating in our society," he said then.

There are no indications Minnesota's law enforcement community is willing to budge from its opposition. Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, said supporters have yet to seek his group's input on the new proposal but he said any plan similar to the 2009 bill would be a nonstarter.

"It would be a regulatory and enforcement nightmare," Flaherty said.

Azzi said the new bill will include added precautions, including a provision for safety centers to check for marijuana impurities.

"There has to be a way for us to mitigate their concerns," she said. "We will be meeting with them between now and January to do just that."

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