Tricounty News

Medical Marijuana Bill passes Senate Committee in bipartisan vote, 8-3

Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, S.F. 97, cleared its first major hurdle this afternoon, passing the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee in a bipartisan vote of 8 to 3. The committee received spoken and written testimony from a number of patients and family members describing the relief provided by medical marijuana when conventional treatments had failed. "I believe this will be the year medical marijuana becomes law in Minnesota," said Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), a sponsor of the bill. "We've seen now from the experiences of 13 states--one-quarter of the country--that these laws work well, and that the dire warnings of opponents simply don't come true. The voters understand that there is no reason to subject suffering patients to arrest and jail for using a doctor-recommended medicine."     One of those testifying was Joni Whiting of Jordan, a disabled Vietnam veteran who had strongly disapproved of marijuana use until her daughter was diagnosed with melanoma and began suffering unbearable nausea and pain from the treatments. "I was opposed to marijuana," Whiting said, "but the nausea my daughter suffered from the chemotherapy was so bad she lost a lot of weight, and the pills the doctor prescribed didn't help--including Marinol, the THC pill. Marijuana allowed her to eat and also helped ease her pain, and she looked better than I'd seen her in months. I would have rather spent the rest of my life in prison than have denied her the medicine that kept her pain at bay and allowed her to live 89 more days."     "I'm pleased to co-author this important legislation that will empower doctors and patients while protecting sick and dying Minnesotans from the threat of criminal prosecution," said Sen. Debbie Johnson (R-Ham Lake). "Most FDA-approved drugs assist in managing short-term pain.  Chronically ill and terminal patients need alternatives. Medical marijuana is one of those alternatives."     Written testimony from patients and others is available at www.minnesotacares.org/Health_Housing_and_Family_Security_Committee_Testimony.htm.     Thirteen states, including one-quarter of the U.S. population, now permit medical use of marijuana under state law. The newest such law was enacted by Michigan voters last November, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote. Medical organizations which have recognized marijuana's medical uses include the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and American College of Physicians, which noted "marijuana's proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and its relatively low toxicity," in a statement issued last year.