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< Conferring chambers | Main | Buckling up? >

One toke over the line

Posted at 1:43 PM on April 9, 2008 by Michael Marchio (2 Comments)

Medical marijuana bill hearing is

1:33 - Rep. Solberg is explaining that the bill, SF345, was on the House floor at the end of the session last year, but wasn't taken up, so it gets sent back to the last committee that saw it, Ways and Means. So that's what happens to all those bills.

1:35 - Rep. Huntley is offering an oral amendment - to change the dates, nothing fun.

1:38 - Date changes went through to apply it to the next fiscal year, nothing controversial yet.

1:42 - Rep. Dean is asking for a roll call on the bill. No debate? What a rip-off.

1:43 - Rep. Kahn just had a pretty good joke. She asked if Rep. Steve Drazkowski is required to vote the same way as former Speaker Steve Sviggum did. Sviggum, you'll remember, carried the bill last year.

1:45 - Well, they just voted on it and approved it to be sent to the floor by a 13-4 vote. Best comment was probably from Rep. Ron Ernhardt, who said "Yes, for some odd reason," when his name was called off the role. That's it, I guess. The Commish sure guessed wrong when he thought this would be a lightning rod issue. Maybe it will generate more debate on the House floor.

So what would this bill actually do, besides give people fodder for Cheech and Chong jokes involving lawmakers? From my reading, here's what it would do:

-People suffering from a "Delibitating medical condition," including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, Tourette's Syndrome and other painful conditions listed or approved by a physician, would have to register for an picture ID card, for a price of $100. They would need written certification by a physician to get the ID card, and could have a primary caregiver over 18 register too, to help them with their treatment, presumably to pick it up and help them "administer" it, or roll the doobie and things like that.

-Allow a registered organization to have 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and 12 plants for each patient. A patient could receive a maximum of 2.5 ounces every 15 days.

-The marijuana couldn't be smoked in a school bus or other forms of public transportation, on school grounds, in a correctional facility, in any public place, or anywhere that the smoke may be inhaled by a minor. Patients also could not drive any "motor vehicle, aircraft, train, or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana." I suppose you have to cover your bases.

-No state-funded health care or private insurers would have to reimburse a person for the costs from the medical marijuana, and employers wouldn't have to accommodate the use in the workplace.

-Submitting false records to the Health Commissioner would be considered a felony and no one convicted of a drug felony could be listed as a primary caregiver.

Rep. Solberg mentioned that this bill had gone through a number of committees last session, and in the humble opinion of the Commish, this law seems to have been vetted pretty thoroughly, with a lot of safeguards, like insurers' attitudes, and making sure that the IDs don't fall into the wrong hands, built into it. I suppose the only way we'll know how effective those safeguards are will be if it's tried. The 13-4 vote leads me to think it will probably get approved on the House floor, but the governor has said in the past he does not support medical marijuana. Is a veto override in the cards?

Comments (2)

I'm procrastinating from writing a legislature-critique term paper for school ... while not legislatural in nature, I have a funny story to offer. A dear friend, who was practicing as a public defense attorney, was assigned to a woman charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute it. She apparently had 2.5 pounds of it (or some other insane amount). Yup, pounds, not ounces. When informed that the penalty was a felony, her justification for being acquitted was "but I don't want to be a felon!"
I suppose the limit on the amount of pot or the number of plants is necessary. But how *do* they come up with some of the numbers? 12 plants is okay, but 13 isn't?

Posted by Elizabeth T. | April 9, 2008 6:52 PM

Given of the steadfast support for medical marijuana from organizations like the American College of Physicians, the National Institute of Health, the British Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the New England Journal of Medicine, it seems "prudent at this juncture" to provide MEDICAL access to marijuana for people with serious medical conditions.

If the federal government continues to fib about the medical efficacy of marijuana and doesn't resume providing federal access to MEDICAL marijuana, then it is each state's responsibility to protect legitimate medical marijuana patients from unjust prosecution.

Good sign this bill is moving forward!

Posted by Roger Pollack | April 10, 2008 7:55 PM