Dayton insists medicinal marijuana has a chance while his appointees try to kill it

After the chief sponsor of a medical marijuana bill in Minnesota all but gave up in the face of opposition from law enforcement, Gov. Mark Dayton issued a quick statement saying “there’s still time” for negotiation on a bill that only one side wants to go anywhere.

It seemed intended to deflect attention from the fact that it was the governor’s condition that he likely wouldn’t sign the bill without the blessing from opponents who helped stall it.

Today, the Star Tribune’s editorial board calls him out on it (“Don’t deny sick kids medical marijuana“).

… he told the Star Tribune Editorial Board this week that he’s also reluctant to legalize a drug that has not been subjected to rigorous medical testing or granted Food and Drug Administration approval.

That’s a Catch-22 argument. Marijuana isn’t tested because federal regulators have made it a Schedule I controlled substance, unavailable for testing. Marijuana landed on the Schedule I list for reasons that today appear more cultural and political than medical. Congress and federal rule makers ought to reconsider that decision.

But with policy paralysis epidemic in Washington, states have turned their “laboratories of democracy” into testing grounds for marijuana’s medical applications. The results of those large-scale tests have been in for some time. Yet they are in dispute at the statehouse. Minnesota law enforcement officials claim there has been an uptick in pot’s recreational usage by teens in medical marijuana states, while advocates cite data that show otherwise.

Dayton’s stated public interest in a medical marijuana bill is betrayed, however, by the fact that three of his appointed cabinet members — commissioners of the state departments of Health, Human Services and Public Safety — penned an op-ed in today’s Star Tribune urging restraint on the measure.

That’s something that simply doesn’t happen without the governor’s blessing.

Does this sound like someone who wants to see any sort of measure pass this year?

Research into the efficacy of any medication must take into consideration dosage, timing, drug interactions, side effects and other factors. Medical marijuana has not gone through anything close to this rigorous process we require for even minor drugs coming to market. Giving sick people powerful chemicals to treat serious medical conditions in a nonregulated, noncontrolled fashion just doesn’t square with modern medical practices, much less our ethics and core values of quality care.

While the benefits of medical marijuana are poorly documented, there’s no shortage of evidence regarding marijuana’s negative effects on individuals and communities.

Let’s review: The governor says there’s still time for a compromise for medicinal marijuana in Minnesota that law enforcement approves of, law enforcement doesn’t approve of marijuana in — apparently — any form, three of his commissioners write an op-ed essentially urging death for the bill until there’s more research, and more research is banned by the federal government.

Trying to kill the bill while insisting it still has a pulse might be good politics, although it has the faint aroma of the style of Frank Underwood. All the more reason why the chief author should move the bill forward and put everyone on the record in a more honest and proper debate.

Update 12:08 p.m. – Gov. Dayton admitted this afternoon that his commissioners speak for him on the issue, and says the legislation is now dead.