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Editorial: Another step for marijuana in Minn.?

From the very beginning of the long struggle to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota, the endgame for some was total legalization, including for recreational use.

So this seems fair to ask: Did Minnesota just take a tiny step toward total legalization with the announcement last week that the list of conditions that qualify a person to receive medical marijuana was being expanded to now also include intractable pain?

In a telephone interview with the Duluth News Tribune Opinion page, state health officials insisted that’s not the case.

“I would say our program runs counter to (any path toward total legalization),” Dan Pollock, the deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, said. “... Everything we’re doing as an agency treats this as a very serious medication, not (like) alcohol or something that’s recreational.”

By contrast, Minnesota’s program, approved by the 2014 Legislature, is entirely focused on providing medical benefits, the state health officials stated. As evidence, they pointed to the program’s collection of patient information; how it follows up with patients to see whether cannabis is helping; that there are only a small, easy-to-keep-an-eye-on number of producers and distributors of the cannabis; and that its availability is only in pill, vapor or liquid form. The risk of a black market for recreational use would be more likely if the drug was in an edible form or could be smoked.

In Minnesota, health officials state very clearly they are monitoring closely the use of cannabis to make sure it remains for medical reasons only.

Of course, that won’t stop some from continuing to push for total legalization, even if it means taking tiny steps to get there. And that means others must remain vigilant and flag any moment when it appears Minnesota is moving down that path. Asking questions is more than fair; it’s necessary in monitoring the program.

-Duluth News Tribune