After a long debate on Tuesday, the Minnesota Senate finally gave overwhelmingly approval authorizing the medical use of marijuana and it now heads to the House for consideration.

After a long debate on Tuesday, the Minnesota Senate finally gave overwhelmingly approval to SF 1641, a bill authorizing the medical use of marijuana. The measure was passed in a veto-proof vote of 48-18 and now heads to the House for consideration.

If it becomes law the bill would put in place a tightly regulated but workable system for providing medical marijuana to patients. Patients with a qualified medical condition would need to get a doctor’s recommendation and register for a medical marijuana card. This would enable them to purchase marijuana fromĀ  one of 55 dispensaries which would be set up throughout the state.

Smoking marijuana would be prohibited but patients would be able to consume it orally or using a vaporizer.

The House is working on a different bill, SF 2470, that is extremely restrictive. A full vote is set for Friday. Under that bill patients would only be able to access medical marijuana as part of a research study and that could easily run into technical/legal problems involving the federal government. As we recently saw in Maryland, a medical marijuana law with too many restrictions can end up being unable to provide help.

Law enforcement groups have been the main opposition to reform in Minnesota.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

Photo by Jim BOwen under Creative Commons license