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Smoke signals: with the Minnesota House debating recreational marijuana, the Senate moves to expand the state’s medical cannabis program

The aggressive push to legalize recreational marijuana in Minnesota has lit a fire under the ongoing effort to update the state’s five-year-old medical cannabis program, including ending the state’s unique ban on smoking dried leaf and bud.

Patients and practitioners have complained almost from the start of the program that Minnesota’s law was overly restrictive, with strict limits on the number of producers, the number of dispensaries and the number of conditions that could be treated. All that was due to the compromises made in 2014 to get the law approved by reluctant lawmakers and a doubtful Gov. Mark Dayton.

But with a reference to the “intensifying” legalization conversation — a bill in the Minnesota House would legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use — Sen. Michelle Benson on Monday quickly moved a medical cannabis reform bill through her Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee before sending it to the Senate floor.

“There’s some angst around updating our medical cannabis program and much of it is related to what we don’t know about medical cannabis and its place in the world of medicine,” Benson said. “But more of it is about a legalization conversation, which I know is intensifying. This is a sincere step to update our medical cannabis program. It is not a path to legalization.” [Read more at MinnPost]

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