St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) - After several hours of emotional debate Friday, Minnesota House lawmakers approved a bill that calls for a therapeutic research study of medical marijuana in a 86-39 vote.
"You can hear a pin drop. That's how serious this is," Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) said to lawmakers.
Lawmakers spent much of the day debating more than 40 amendments to the bill that creates a program under the Minnesota Department of Health to study medical marijuana.
Qualified patients would register to get their marijuana through a single manufacturer, approved and regulated by the Department of Health.
An amendment approved by the House calls for three, secure distribution sites across the state.
The author of the bill, Representative Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), pressed on the fact that the bill is a scaled back compromise and wishes it could do more.
"It's important that we do not shut the opportunity to help thousands of Minnesotans in pursuit of legislation that will not become law this session, Rep. Melin said.
Opponents say the research study alone opens up the flood gates.
"It's really a matter of are we doing what's really best? I may have been able to get behind a bill that limited it to a certain group and put some real scientific standard around and include the FDA but I don't see that members," said Rep. Mike Benson (R-Rochester).
Law enforcement and the Minnesota Medical Association have stated they do not oppose Melin's bill.
MDH estimates that 5,045 Minnesotans will enroll in the observational research study.
Medical cannabis is allowed in liquid and pill form only. Smoking is prohibited. Vaporizing is allowed but only by using cannabis that comes in liquid or pill form. Vaporized delivery of the plant/leaf is also prohibited.
On Tuesday, Senate lawmakers also approved a bill legalizing medical marijuana in a 48 to 18 vote.
That measure, authored by Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), allows sick children and adults to obtain medical marijuana in pill, liquid and vapor forms, right off the bat.
It also calls for a study, similar to Representative Melin's, to coincide with the law.