ST. PAUL, Minn. - A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota was put on hold Tuesday at the Capitol after negotiations with law enforcement hit a stalemate.
This comes after the bill passed out of committee with bipartisan support last week. Several dozen Minnesotans gave emotional testimony in support of medical marijuana during that hearing.
Rep. Carly Melin said talks with a law enforcement coalition fell apart over the weekend when they had "staunch opposition" to her compromise bill in which she made concessions from her original proposal.
"It completely removed the smoking of marijuana. It penalized smoking of marijuana. It took out all home cultivation which is one of the concerns they've cited all along. It restricted marketing and advertising. It gave law enforcement a seat at the table when it came to rule making. It changed the definition of pain so fewer people would qualify for a medical marijuana prescription. We put all those things forward and they still opposed it," said Melin.
From the beginning Gov. Mark Dayton has said as long as long enforcement is opposed to medical marijuana, he is too.
Chief Dave Kolb, with the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said medical marijuana laws make marijuana open to more segments of society and carry the risk of collateral damage.
"A higher percentage of kids between ages 12 and 17 smoke marijuana on a regular basis in the states with medical marijuana laws. Law enforcement opposes legislation that would allow additional marijuana plant material to be released into our communities. We would not oppose legislation that would allow for extracted cannabinoid compounds to be prescribed in a controlled manner," wrote Kolb, in an email to KARE 11.
Kolb also wrote local law enforcement has compassion for people suffering from disease as well as those who would suffer from expanded marijuana use in Minnesota.
"A combination of education, prevention, treatment and enforcement have reduced the use of marijuana in the past decade. We look to medical research to identify and extract helpful cannabinoid compounds without unleashing additional marijuana plant material into our communities," he said.
Dayton issued a statement, saying "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."
Melin said she isn't willing to give up on legislation.
"It would be easy to continue to blame law enforcement for this mess we are in, but we are the ones with election certificates. The voters send us here to make difficult decisions, to pass legislation and sign it into law. We need to start taking personal responsibility. Minnesotans need to mobilize and put pressure on their legislators and governor to try and get something done," said Melin.
That's what Maria Botker, of Clinton, plans to do. Last fall, Maria and her husband Mark bought a home in Colorado to give their youngest daughter Greta access to a special strain of medical marijuana called Charlotte's Web. Its cannabis oil low in THC, the compound that creates a high, and the Botkers say it's reducing Greta's severe seizure disorder called Lennox-Gestaut syndrome. Her seizures used to be as often as 15 times a day and after a few months on the oil, her parents only now cope with a few seizures each day. More than 300 families from across the country have moved to Colorado in hopes the Charlotte's Web will help their sick children.
"I can't believe the governor can hide behind law enforcement and not have the compassion to look at our children and our adults that are suffering every single day," said Botker. "We are not done with this push."
The Botkers can't risk bringing the cannabis oil back home to Minnesota where the drug is illegal, so the family is living apart. Mark Botker and their other two daughters remain on the family farm in Clinton, while Maria and Greta live in Colorado. Melin said had law enforcement agreed to her compromise bill, Minnesota would have had the strictest medical marijuana laws in the nation.
"I've seen the families that need the help and I just can't give up on them. But taking it in a new direction and putting more pressure on politicians to get something done is the path forward," said Melin.
Medical marijuana is allowed in 20 states and Washington, D.C.