ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Commentary: Medical marijuana bill just too open-ended

I just read the article in the Bemidji Pioneer about the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding medical marijuana. While nothing stated in your article is inaccurate, much more was said that I believe should be considered as Minnesota...

I just read the article in the Bemidji Pioneer about the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding medical marijuana. While nothing stated in your article is inaccurate, much more was said that I believe should be considered as Minnesotans think about this issue.

First I would like to say that if this bill were crafted narrowly enough so I could be comfortable we were making marijuana available only to those with terminal or severe medical conditions who could not be helped with another drug, I would feel differently about my vote. I am very sympathetic to anyone in this situation and to families watching a loved one suffer.

In my opinion, however, the only evidence presented that marijuana has medicinal benefits that can't be replicated by another drug was entirely anecdotal. No mainstream medical organization, such as the American Medical Association, has taken this position.

Worse in my mind, the manner in which we will allow this drug to be "dispensed" is almost without control. Anyone who pays $1,000 and registers as a non-profit (even if that person is a family member of the person using the drug) can grow marijuana plants in their home (or almost anywhere else).

Under the proposed bill, there are no regulations regarding the strength of the marijuana grown; if we are going to treat marijuana as a pain medication, I think we must at least regulate it in the same way.

ADVERTISEMENT

A person who wants to use marijuana under this bill simply has to find a doctor who will authorize its use (including any out-of-state doctors, and we heard testimony that in Oregon two doctors had issued thousands of prescriptions just for "pain").

Unlike the examples listed in the paper, this bill does not just authorize marijuana use for conditions like cancer and epilepsy. Any person who says he or she has suffered from "intractable pain" and has been taking another medication for at least six months (it could be aspirin) qualifies for a card allowing that person to use marijuana, provided a doctor will prescribe it.

Once again, we heard that in Oregon where a similar law exits, over 90 percent of the prescriptions written were simply for "pain" rather than for the severe medical conditions used to justify passage of the law.

None of us can say for sure that this law will be abused, but common sense indicates to me that the potential certainly is there. We heard from numerous law enforcement officers who were adamantly opposed to passage of the bill. We heard that by passing this law, we will significantly undermine law enforcement's ability to enforce existing drug laws and will make their job much harder.

In the last year, I've heard from far too many of our youth (and adults) about the devastation drugs caused in their lives -- a destructive path that nearly always began with marijuana use. Considering the dangerous side effects of this drug, its high potential for misuse, and the extremely loose controls in the proposed legislation, I felt compelled to argue strongly against this bill.

While it did pass the committee on a close vote, it has not yet come to the floor for a vote by the full Senate. Before it does, I'd be very interested to hear from my constituents who have opinions about his bill, whether pro or con. I've heard the bill may be included in a larger omnibus bill, which will make it harder to vote against because no doubt the bill will contain other legislation important to voters.

As always, but especially when I am considering a vote on a difficult issue with legitimate arguments that can be made on both sides, I'm very interested to hear what my constituents think. With issues like this, it is not possible to please everyone, but I try to weigh very carefully what I hear from home.

Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, is a member of the Minnesota Senate and vice chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.
Mike Clemens, a farmer from Wimbledon, North Dakota, was literally (and figuratively) “blown away,” when his equipment shed collapsed under a snow load.