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Minnesota medical marijuana bill passes first committee test

ST. PAUL - A Minnesota House committee approved the use of marijuana to help suffering patients after 7-year-old Amelia Weaver provided an example Tuesday night of why some want the practice legalized.

The girl suffered a seizure, one of about 30 she suffers a day, while her mother told the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Policy Committee on Tuesday night that marijuana could help her daughter.

"It would be the best day of my life if I could hear my daughter say 'momma' again," Angie Weaver of Hibbing said, adding that there is evidence that marijuana can help some patients regain speech and reduce seizures.

The Weavers were among those who told committee members during the 3½-hour meeting that marijuana can fight intense pain and improve other medical issues. The committee passed the measure on a split voice vote, sending it to another of several committees that must consider the bill before it reaches a full House vote.

A similar bill awaits Senate committee action.

An amendment to ban smoking marijuana and patients growing their own marijuana failed 10-8. The amendment would have authorized use of pills, liquid, vaporizing and other methods of delivering the chemical in marijuana.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said that eliminating smoking and cultivating could attract support from law enforcement officers and Gov. Mark Dayton.

Chairwoman Tina Liebling, D-Rochester, accepted only health-related testimony Tuesday, reserving comments about public safety or law enforcement issues for other committees. Most law enforcement groups oppose the measure.

Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing, said her bill would allow "legal, safe and regulated treatment for patients who need it."

Weaver and her husband, Josh, sat with their daughter in the committee room while she had a brief seizure in front of the panel.

Amelia Weaver was born normal, her mother said, but after 2½ years she "lost the ability to talk and communicate."

Angie Weaver said children in similar situations have regained some use of their voices after using marijuana. The substance also can help reduce seizures, Weaver said.

"I cannot tell you what seizure control means," she said. "You have a life."

Joni Whiting of Jordan told about her daughter, who at age 24 developed skin cancer.

When the young woman began to use marijuana, against the law, her symptoms eased.

"I would rather spend the rest of my life in prison than to deny her the marijuana that kept her pain at bay," Whiting said.

Marijuana kept her daughter alive 89 more days, Whiting said.

"For this government to deny those who need medical marijuana to lessen the severity of their pain, nausea and seizures is unjustifiable," Whiting said. "To threaten the sick and dying, and their loved ones, with jail is unconscionable."

Maria Botker came from western Minnesota's Big Stone County to tell the story of her youngest daughter, Greta, 7, who now lives in Colorado with her father so she can use marijuana to ease her seizures.

In Colorado, she is improving by using a legal liquid form of marijuana, her mother said.

"She does not get stoned, she does not get high ..." Botker said. "This is so not dangerous to our society."

One of the few arguing against marijuana was Autumn Leva of the Minnesota Family Council. She called it "a highly addictive and unproven drug."

Most importantly, she said, "this bill sends entirely the wrong message to our youth," telling them it is acceptable to use marijuana.

Many medical groups do not support medical marijuana, Leva said.

Melin's bill would allow a patient who has a doctor's permission to have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Someone allowed to cultivate marijuana for his or her own use could have six plants in a locked facility.

Only a person with a "debilitating medical condition" could use marijuana under the bill.

Marijuana could not be used on school property or smoked in any public place.

Don Davis, INFORUM

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