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DULUTH - Ailing families tirelessly fighting to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota have finally gotten their wish. Thursday, Minnesota lawmakers reached a deal on legalizing certain forms of medical marijuana.
The bill is much different from those passed by the house and senate last week, and officials say Minnesota’s new law will be one of the strictest in the nation.
With the support of legislators, doctors, and marijuana activists, Minnesota is on track to make history by becoming the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana.
"The fact that we were able to come together with an agreement that is going to be signed into law is thrilling for a lot of people who have been fighting very, very hard," said Minnesota’s District 6A Representative and co-author of the bill Carly Melin.
It was Melin and Senator Scott Dibble who made medical marijuana in Minnesota a reality.
"People in Minnesota who are suffering today who have no good options - or no options at all - can have the hope of gaining some relief," Dibble said.
The new bill would allow for two manufacturers and eight distribution sites throughout the state.
It will only allow the drug in an oil, pill, or vapor form.
Which means smoking marijuana is still against the law.
While doctors at St. Lukes can see the positive effects of medical marijuana they are skeptical about problems it might cause in the future.
"We don't have the body of evidence showing that it's truly effective like we do with other drugs," said chief medical officer at St. Luke’s Hospital, Dr. Gary Peterson.
To get the marijuana a doctor has to diagnose you with a valid condition like cancer associated with chronic or severe pain, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Tourette’s Syndrome, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, or a terminal illness with the life expectancy of less than a year.
Mental conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and anxiety were removed in the compromise.
Marijuana advocate groups like Minnesota Norml say they're happy with the bill, but it isn't exactly what they'd hoped for.
"The regulations put in place right now - It's kind of like you have to take what you can get," said Michael Baumbarten. He’s a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a marijuana advocate with Minnesota Norml. They believe if smoking marijuana was included, thousands of people could also take advantage of the effects.
“I think you're going to see it become more of a realistic treatment that more medical professionals will recognize,” Baumgarten explained.
It's a win for Minnesotans who have been fighting for months, if not years, to make the drug legal.
Governor Mark Dayton is in support of the bill, and is expected to sign it Friday.
If everything goes as planned, the first dose of medical marijuana will become available July 2015.