Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, sent a letter to Governor Tim Pawlenty Thursday urging him to veto a bill passed Wednesday in the Minnesota Senate.
The bill would make marijuana legal for people to grow and possess if they obtained a prescription from their doctor and filled out the appropriate state forms.
"My career in law enforcement has demonstrated to me firsthand, that marijuana today is not the harmless drug many people perceive it to be," said Ingebrigtsen, "and I'm worried about the message this will send to our young people. If our society equates marijuana with just another painkiller, you send the message to our youth that they're doing nothing more than abusing over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin or Tylenol, and nothing could be further from the truth."
An informal online poll on the Echo Press website found split opinion on the issue. The poll asked, "Should Minnesota legalize marijuana for medical use?"
A total of 35.98 percent of the 592 respondents said, "No" while 35.64 percent said, "Yes, with few or no restrictions," and 25.34 percent said, "Yes, but only for tightly controlled purposes. About 3 percent were unsure/undecided.
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I controlled narcotic substance by the Department Enforcement Agency (DEA). The classification, Ingebrigtsen said, means the drug is considered to "having a very high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacking accepted safety data for use under medical supervision."
"There are many recovering addicts who will tell you that marijuana is a gateway drug and will lead to further abusive behavior on the part of individuals who begin its use," said Ingebrigtsen.
Thirteen states have legalized marijuana for medical use.
"There is a national push to legalize drugs and drug activists are using the so called medical benefits of marijuana to further their agenda," Ingebrigtsen said. "Minnesota would be irresponsible to allow its citizens to fall into this trap."
The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) position states that no sound scientific studies have supported the medical use of marijuana. For patients wishing to alleviate the symptoms associated with the illnesses, the FDA has approved a drug, Marinol, which contain the active ingredients in marijuana.
"This legislation also places our law enforcement officers in a very difficult position with respect to enforcing drug laws," said Ingebrigtsen, a former Douglas County sheriff. "The way this law is written, an individual can grow up to 12 plants and possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana. These are extremely large quantities for a single person to have and would make it nearly impossible for cops and law enforcement to curb the flow of marijuana."
Ingebrigtsen served as sheriff of Douglas County for 16 years and a deputy sheriff for 18 years preceding that. He can be reached at (651) 297-8063, by mail at 123 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via e-mail at email@example.com.