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Bill aims to help individuals who use marijuana for medical purposes

Last year, Minnesota became the 22nd state to pass legislation legalizing the medical use of marijuana. In a few short months, on July 1, the law will go into effect and individuals diagnosed with qualifying medical conditions will be able to legally obtain and use the drug in oil, pill or liquid form.

While proponents of medical marijuana consider the passage of the bill a triumph, there are provisions in the bill that place heavy burdens upon qualifying individuals and their physicians and also fail to address the needs of many others who could benefit from the drug's use. For example, an individual's primary physician is required to submit reporting forms at their own time and expense. This requirement may limit the number of doctors who wish to participate in the program.

Additionally, those participating in the program are at risk of incurring penalties and criminal charges if they are found to engage in "intentional diversion" of the bill's requirements or are found to have made "false statements on an application." Also, because the scope of qualifying conditions is so limited, many other individuals who have disabling medical conditions and could greatly benefit from the drug, are still subject to criminal drug charges and conviction.

Individuals who are found to be in possession of marijuana and are not sanctioned participants in the state's medical marijuana program may still face criminal prosecution. However, a recently introduced bill known as HF 542, would require courts to at least "allow evidence of medical necessity for criminal, administrative, and civil cases involving natural herbs of the genus Cannabis."

According to the nonprofit Marijuana Policy Project, during 2012 alone, there were a total of 12,051 marijuana arrests in the state, the majority of which were possession-related. Depending on the quantity involved, individuals facing marijuana possession charges can face hefty fines and a lengthy prison sentence. We'll continue to provide updates on both HF 542 as well as matters related to Minnesota's medical marijuana law in the coming months.

Source: Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, "Minnesota Medical Marijuana Law," April 2, 2015

Marijuana Policy Project, "LEGISLATURE BACK IN SESSION, EFFORTS TO IMPROVE MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW INTRODUCED," Feb. 9, 2015

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