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Minnesota lawmakers approve limited legalization of medical marijuana

[JURIST] Minnesota lawmakers on Friday approved a bill [SF 2470, text] legalizing medical marijuana in pill or liquid form for a limited number of patients who suffer from severe or fatal illnesses. The state's Senate voted 46-16 and the House voted 89-40 to approve the bill with bipartisan support. Governor Mark Dayton has said he will sign it into law. Opponents of the bill are concerned that it could lead to wider use of marijuana in Minnesota, and that it will lead toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. The measure allows the use of whole plant extracts but not the plant itself. The bill permits two manufacturers of medical cannabis and eight distribution centers around the state, which will make medical marijuana available starting July 1, 2015. Patients will have to be diagnosed with one of several specific conditions to apply to the state for enrollment in the program. Covered conditions include cancer that is causing severe or chronic pain or severe vomiting, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV, AIDS and Crohn's disease. Enrollment for the use of medicinal marijuana is not capped, but the state health department has estimated that approximately 5,000 individuals will participate.

The use of marijuana for medical purposes and the legalization of marijuana [JURIST backgrounder] for recreational use has garnered more legal support [Marijuana Policy Project website] in the US in recent months. Last month the Maryland House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Earlier in April Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill [JURIST report] that would decriminalize marijuana possession in the District of Columbia for up to an ounce. In Marcn the Colorado Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that lawyers can advise marijuana businesses in the state without fear of violating state attorney ethics laws. Also in March the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] succeeded [JURIST report] in a lawsuit to defend the rights of Arizonans to use marijuana extracts for medical conditions. In the same month the state senate in Georgia unanimously approved a house version [JURIST reports] of a groundbreaking medical marijuana bill for the state.

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