Dayton doomed marijuana legislation by giving all negotiating power to law enforcement

If nothing else, today’s story that Minnesota politicians have conceded they’ve lost the legislative fight for medical marijuana in Minnesota reveals how adept Gov. Mark Dayton was at killing a bill without actually doing the dirty work.

When the state lawmakers approved shall-carry legislation, it came over the objection of law enforcement organizations in the state which claimed it would make the state less safe. The politicians passed it anyway. So it can happen here.

Democratic Rep. Carly Melin of Hibbing postponed consideration of the marijuana bill today, just as it was to be debated in the House Government Operations Committee. She said she offered concessions to law enforcement, but they wouldn’t withdraw their opposition, and the politicians weren’t willing to buck them, especially with Gov. Mark Dayton saying he probably wouldn’t sign a bill they’re not comfortable with.

She says she offered to only allow marijuana in pill form and only by prescription. They wouldn’t budge. She offered to keep it illegal to grow your own pot. They wouldn’t budge. And she offered to change the language of the bill to only allow marijuana use in the case of “intractable pain.”

Intractable pain is severe pain that is not curable. No matter. Law enforcement didn’t budge.

It would be easy for supporters of medical marijuana to blame the cops, but it would be misapplied. It’s Gov. Mark Dayton’s insistence that he wouldn’t sign a bill without law enforcement’s blessing.

In Maryland, they’re having a similar debate — this one over the decriminalization of pot, but the difference in the politics is stark. Law enforcement is opposed to the legislation. Last month, a police chief testified about a story of “marijuana overdoses” in Colorado, where marijuana is now legal. It didn’t help his cause when it turned out the story came from Comedy Central. But even so, politicians there weren’t buying it. Last Friday, a committee advanced the bill on an 8-3 bipartisan vote.

A state senator said he wanted to “rein in the police a little bit.”

Sixty-eight percent of those polled in Maryland favor changing marijuana laws in the state.

New York, too, is loosening its marijuana laws. Gov. Andrew Cuomo did so by executive action. It will allow 20 hospitals across the state to prescribe marijuana to patients with cancer, glaucoma or some other diseases set by the New York State Department of Health.

Law enforcement opposes the move, but Cuomo, who’s been an opponent of liberalized marijuana policies, is going ahead anyway.

Last week, law enforcement in California reversed long-time opposition to medical marijuana, over a bill that sets conditions somewhat similar to the one Minnesota lawmakers proposed. A police chief, an opponent of medical marijuana, says he realized regulatory action on marijuana was coming with or without him.

The legislation in Minnesota was probably doomed the moment Gov. Dayton urged both sides to work together on the issue. With the governor declaring he wouldn’t sign the bill without law enforcement’s blessing, there was no reason for law enforcement to negotiate, no matter how many sad stories the state’s citizens told.


So far, there’s little political reason for Dayton to budge in an election year. Only 51 percent of Minnesotans approve the idea of medical marijuana, according to last month’s Star Tribune poll. Most of that support comes from DFLers, who aren’t likely to vote for a Republican this fall over their dissatisfaction with Dayton’s position on the issue.