ST. PAUL (Aug. 1, 2013) — Advocates of medical marijuana including some patients and policymakers are applauding Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, signed a bill into law Thursday making Illinois the 20th state in the nation to allow residents with serious illnesses to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a similar bill into law last week.
Adoption of the medical marijuana laws in Illinois and New Hampshire, both of which received bipartisan support, has galvanized support for a Minnesota medical marijuana bill that was introduced in May.
“A growing number of states recognize the benefits of medical marijuana in the treatment of debilitating conditions,” said Minnesota Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar), a sponsor of the proposal. “Minnesota should not be the last to follow. It should be the next.”
The bill was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives (HF 1515) by Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) and in the Senate (SF 1641) by Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis). It has the maximum number of sponsors allowed – 35 in the House, including 12 committee chairs, and five in the Senate, including two committee chairs. The legislature will consider the measure when it reconvenes in February.
“Seriously ill Minnesotans and their families should not have to pack up and move to neighboring states in order to improve the quality of their lives,” said Rep. Melin. “Our state is better than that, and we can prove it by adopting a sensible medical marijuana policy.”
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Minnesota voters support changing state law to allow people with serious and terminal illnesses to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it, according to a survey conducted in March by Public Policy Polling. Two-thirds (66 percent) said they think Gov. Mark Dayton should sign such a bill if it is approved by the legislature.
“I suffer from an incurable disease that has robbed me of the ability to walk distances, drive, and continue my career as a nurse,” said Chrissy Gunderson of Zimmerman, who was diagnosed in 2011 with a rare autoimmune syndrome known as Behçet’s disease. “But what is truly unbearable is that my governor is standing in the way of the only treatment option that has eased my pain, reduced my nausea, and allowed me to get back some semblance of my life.”
The Illinois medical marijuana bill, which received final approval in the legislature on May 17, was sponsored in the Senate by a former state’s attorney, Sen. Bill Haine. Among the legislators voting in favor of it were two former assistant state’s attorneys, Rep. Emily McAsey and Rep. Dennis Reboletti; a former Chicago police officer, Sen. Antonio Muñoz; and Rep. Edward Acevedo, who still serves as a Chicago police officer.
The measure was endorsed by the Illinois Nurses Association and the Illinois State Bar Association, and more than 270 doctors from across the state signed on to a statement in support of safe access to medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses.
Minnesotans for Compassionate Care (MCC) is a coalition of organizations, medical professionals, patients, and concerned citizens working to protect people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and other serious illnesses from arrest and imprisonment for using medical marijuana with their physicians’ advice. www.MNcares.org