Gov. Dayton weighs in on marijuana, online lotto

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In the back and forth over medical marijuana at the State Capitol, Governor Dayton said Monday he's willing to sign a medical marijuana bill if it can gain the support of the Minnesota Medical Association, the state's physicians group.

Dayton, however, remained openly skeptical of the Senate's version of the medical cannabis bill, especially because it allows the leaf form of the drug to be used with a special vaporizer. The governor, who months ago questioned the difference between vaping and smoking marijuana, said he sees too much potential for abuse.

"To me it's impossible to believe that somebody's going to buy two and a half ounces of marijuana and not smoke it," Dayton told reporters at a State Capitol briefing.

"Or not sell it to somebody else who will (smoke it). It just defies common sense, in my judgment."

Dayton is much closer to embracing the scaled back version of the medical cannabis bill that passed the House Friday. The Senate on Tuesday will have an opportunity to accept the House version, or reject it in favor of the more comprehensive marijuana medicine measure that passed the Senate May 6 by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote.

Sen. Scott Dibble, the chief author of the Senate's version, defended the whole leaf vaporizer approach in a letter to the Governor Sunday.

"Vaporizing oil and other forms have significant drawbacks and risks not present in the whole plant form, especially because these forms are more potent," Sen. Dibble wrote.

He also pointed out that the Senate's version of the bill has more security features that can be found in the House version, all provisions designed to prevent abuse of the system and limit medicinal cannabis to those who really need it.

Dibble also contends that law enforcement organizations have painted his legislation with a broad brush, and drawn worst case scenarios from experiences in states with much more lax rules in place.

"Law enforcement testimony in Senate hearings disregarded the content of my bill and instead focused on other states' policies," Dibble wrote.

"Public safety officials have consistently mischaracterized my bill in public statements and have not engaged me in conversations on the issue."

The Senate bill envisions a network comprised of alternative treatment centers that would be licensed by the State Dept. of Health, in contrast to the House bill that features a single supplier or manufacturing center with up to three outlets statewide.

Dayton said he remains cautious about the security of medical cannabis distribution system laid out in the Senate bill, noting that even tightly controlled prescription pain killers such as Vicodin and oxycodone have been diverted to the streets of Minnesota.

Online Lottery Sales

Dayton also discussed a proposed ban on online lottery sales, another hot button issue lingering is the 2014 session enters its final week.

The House and Senate are both on a fast track to ban online lottery ticket sales, which the Minnesota Lottery launched more than three years ago. Lawmakers are also moving to end the electronic instant scratch-off games the state lottery initiated in late February.

The ban would also end the Minn. Lottery's "play at the pump" pilot project featuring lottery ticket sales at fuel pumps.

Dayton said he understands people who are opposed to gambling on principle, but wants to know more about what's motivating the sudden move against the lottery's online operations.

"To what extent is it to protect the people of Minnesota from the additional ills of online gambling? And to what extent is it about protecting the economic interest of people who have a piece of state's gambling pie and want to protect their turf?"

Convenience store and service station industry groups, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and gambling opponents in general all support the ban on online lottery sales and games.

Lottery director Ed van Petten said the loss of the online ticket sales would impact the agency's bottom line, and that would cut into revenue that currently goes to an environmental fund and the state's general fund spending.

Most of the online revenue is generated by a subscriber service allowing those with debit cards on file with the lottery to purchase blocks of tickets for Power Ball, Mega Bucks and other state and national drawings. The players are then informed of their winning tickets after the drawings.


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