MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Lawmakers hit stalemate with law enforcement - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Lawmakers hit stalemate with law enforcement

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota suffered a major setback on Tuesday after law enforcement groups rejected a proposed compromise, putting the issue back in a political stalemate.

Police groups in Minnesota have historically been adamantly opposed to letting people smoke marijuana to treat debilitating medical conditions, and on Tuesday, it appeared that stance has not changed despite an offer of compromise.

Over the weekend, Rep. Carly Melin, assistant majority leader and the chief sponsor of the bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives, offered to remove smoking from the medical marijuana bill and even offered to add penalties for those who would smoke medical marijuana.

"Part of the compromise was that we took smoking of marijuana completely out of the bill. We actually penalized any smoking of medical marijuana by patients, which is a huge step to take," Melin explained. "I mean, there are 20 states with medical marijuana in this country and not one of them outlaws smoking or punished the patient for smoking marijuana. We were willing to do that."

Melin said she even offered to drop the provision that would allow patients to grow medical marijuana at home, too, but law enforcement groups rejected all attempts. Now, she says they've hit a stalemate.

"Almost half the country is living in a state with legalized medical marijuana," she said. "This would have been the most restrictive bill in the country, and they still rejected it -- so, it's hard to know where to go forward from that."

In light of the impasse, Melin requested the second hearing on her bill be postponed. As a result, the bill was removed from the calendar after the breakdown in compromise talks, and activist groups responded by urging supporters to contact Gov. Mark Dayton's office and urge him against giving veto power to police.

"I don't see a path forward until the governor changes his position," Melin herself admitted.

Dayton has repeatedly stated that he would not sign any medical marijuana legislation that does not have support from law enforcement.

For now, Melin plans to reassess her options before moving forward. In the interim, she is also calling on supporters to speak out.

"I think what we saw in the Health and Human Services committee was really emotional and compelling testimony from patients -- and that's who we need to hear from. That's who lawmakers need to hear from," Melin told Fox 9 News. "This needs to go beyond the scope of the Capitol, and beyond the scope of the Legislature, and get people to really get something done."

There is still a medical marijuana bill in the Senate, but no hearing has been held on it yet. Even so, Dennis Flaherty, of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer's Association, expressed a grim view that a compromise could be found there either, telling Fox 9 News he doesn't believe there is enough time to craft one during the short legislative session.

Lawmakers, however, disagree -- including Dayton. On Tuesday afternoon, he released the following statement about the issue that said there is "ample time." 

"The two months remaining in the legislative session provide ample time to negotiate medical marijuana legislation, which incorporates the legitimate concerns of not only law enforcement officers, but also many medical, mental health, and other experts," Dayton's statement read in full.

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