The Minnesota medical marijuana bill narrowly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday on a 5-4 vote. The bill, SF 345, has already been approved by the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee and now heads for a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill would allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a physician's recommendation.
A House companion bill, HF 0655 has so far successfully followed a similarly torturous path. It is now before the House Finance Committee for the second time.
The favorable vote came despite sometimes heated testimony by law enforcement officials who argued it would "send the wrong message," lead to increased marijuana use, be difficult to enforce, and conflict with federal law. But the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Steve Murphy (D-Red Wing) called those concerns overstated.
"I'm happy that we are one step closer to passing this bill that will help patients suffering from cancer, MS, and other diseases to receive the care their physicians recommend," said Murphy after the vote.
The number of states with laws protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest increased on April 2, when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) signed the 12th state medical marijuana law. The other states with medical marijuana laws are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.