ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Minnesota is about to become the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana.
On Thursday, state lawmakers announced a deal to make medical cannabis legal and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he'll sign it.
The new law does not allow smoking of marijuana leaves, only vaporizing the cannabis extract and ingesting pills and oils.
It's intended to help people like 8-year-old Amelia Weaver, who suffers 30-50 seizures a day.
"This means the world to our family," Amelia's mother, Angie Weaver of Hibbing, said. "This is going to change my daughter's life, and thousands of other lives in Minnesota."
Medical Marijuana Deal
Two in-state manufacturers would distribute medical marijuana at eight scattered locations in Minnesota determined by geographical need.
Patients would qualify if they're diagnosed with one of ten different ailments, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Tourette syndrome, ALS, seizures, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and other terminal illnesses.
Advocates hope to have the system online by July of 2015.
"People in Minnesota who are suffering today, who have no good options at all, can have the hope of gaining some relief," said the bill's author, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. "The public supports this, and the time has come to take this important step," he said.
Parents of children with debilitating illnesses watched the press conference as it unfolded.
Some had planned to move out of Minnesota to get legal cannabis-- until now.
"It's taking every part of me not to cry right now," said Jeremy Pauling, of Montevideo, whose daughter Catelyn suffers repeated seizures. "It's been a long road, but now I can get my daughter the medicine she needs."
Medical marijuana has strong bi-partisan support, including State Rep. Rod Hamilton, who has MS. He changed his vote from "No" to "Yes" after an emotional meeting with Amelia and her family.
"I'm happy to be a flip-flopper on this issue," Hamilton, a Republican from Mountain Lake, said. "I've also said only a fool and a dead man never changes his mind."
Dayton said he will sign this medical marijuana compromise, and issued a written statement.
"This bill is citizen government at its best. It has been led by parents, who deeply love their children, are anguished by their pain, and insist their government try to help them. As a father and grandfather, I both understand and admire their devotion.
I also congratulate the bill's authors, Representative Carly Melin and Senator Scott Dibble, for their extraordinary efforts. I thank them for their willingness to bring together groups with very different perspectives and to work with them to achieve this result.
Finally, I want to credit Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, who added his invaluable medical and public health expertise to the bill's final deliberations.
I look forward to signing this bill into law. And I pledge that my administration, led by Dr. Ehlinger, will do everything possible to implement it as swiftly and successfully, as is possible."
for more features.