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Minnesota lawmakers approve limited legalization of medical marijuana

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Minnesota is another state that legalizes medical marijuana this year, but it may not be the last.

The legislature and governor there struck a deal last week that would allow medical marijuana by the summer of 2015. It was approved by a favorably wide margins in the House and the Senate, putting the state on track to become the 22nd nationwide – and third in the Midwest – to allow marijuana for medical use. Maryland approved marijuana for such uses in April, and New York could be next.

The New York state Senate plans to take up the measure Tuesday, and the bill’s sponsor says she has more than enough votes to secure passage – a first for that chamber. The state Assembly has passed similar measures four times, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard, and votes overwhelmingly support the idea.

A February survey found that votes in New York supported legalizing medical marijuana virtually 10-1. Nine percent opposed the idea, while 88 percent supported it, according to Quinnipiac University, which conducted the poll. Voters in Florida, where medical marijuana is on the November ballot, support the idea by a virtually identical margin.

Bills to legalize medical marijuana have been proposed in at least 15 states this year, according to an April count by the Marijuana Policy Project, a pot advocacy group.

However, not all medical marijuana laws are created equally. Most, but not all, allow personal cultivation of plants for approved medicinal use. Minnesota would be among the few that do not. The measure there would also allow only two manufacturers to operate in the state and restricts the use of the drug – it cannot be smoked. The New York measure includes that limitation but only for patients under 21.

The opponents of the bill raise some concerned that could lead to wider use of marijuana in Minnesota, particularly among children, and serve as a first step toward legalization of the drug for recreational use. Likewise, in Colorado and Washington State both have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and other states are considering legislation.


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