UPDATE May 16, 2014: For additional information on the timeline of the Weaver family involvement, see today's post, Joshua Weaver clarifies timeline of his family's involvement with MN medical cannabis politics. [end update]
If one's only encounter with Representative Carly Melin's opinion of Minnesota Citizens for Compassionate was a post she made in the MN Pediatric Cannabis Therapy closed Facebook group on May 10, 2014, one might take her as the fearless guardian of the line against stealth legalization of recreational cannabis.
And that her colleague in the Senate, Scott Dibble (Minneapolis)m was nothing but a patsy for MCC, a front for the Marijuana Policy Project. UPDATE: Melin claims that the new bill was written by non-partisan attorneys employed by the House with input from the Board of Pharmacy, the MN Medical Association, Department of health, and manufacturers from Colorado. End update.
Unfortunately for that representation to people interested in providing pediatric medical cannabis children who might gain from treatments that may reduce suffering, that's not an accurate accounting of Melin's history of working with MCC's "one employee."
Melin was (and remains) a co-sponsor of HF1818, original companion to Dibble bill
On May 1, 2013, Politics In Minnesota's Paul Demko reported in Medical marijuana bill attracts 40 co-sponsors:
Advocates of legalizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes claim that they have 40 co-sponsors for legislation that will be introduced on Thursday.
According to Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, they have lined up 35 co-sponsors in the House and five in the Senate. . . .
Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, will be the lead author of the House bill. Also listed as a sponsor is Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, will sponsor legislation in the Senate.
On July 26, 2013, Charley Shaw at PIM reported in Medical marijuana push teed up for 2014:
When a bipartisan group of legislators threw a medical marijuana bill into the hopper during the last month of the 2013 legislative session, it wasn’t intended as an 11th-hour bargaining chip. Anticipating a short session in 2014, medical marijuana advocates said they were trying to set the stage for convincing lawmakers that they should join a growing list of states that allow patients with serious or terminal illnesses to use the drug to alleviate their pain.
The bill’s chief sponsor in the House, Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said she and other advocates plan to lay the groundwork for a campaign to explain to lawmakers the bill’s safeguards and why it’s needed.
“We introduced it late knowing we weren’t going to pursue it in 2013, because it was a budget year and we had a lot else going on,” Melin said. “But obviously we have a short session coming up, and we want to get the ball rolling over the interim so we can pick up right away once the session starts in February.” . . .
. . .Heather Azzi, political director of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, who advocated for the medical marijuana bill in 2009, said the groundwork is being established for a strong showing in 2014. And that means trying to make inroads with the most vocal opponent of medical marijuana: law enforcement.
“We introduced the bill at the end of session so we could begin conversations with the law enforcement community now,” Azzi said. “Our goal with this bill is to enact something in Minnesota that protects the sick and suffering patients whose doctors have recommended marijuana while preventing abuse. We don’t want anything like what we’ve seen in California [to happen] here.”
Was Melin completely ignorant of the connection between Azzi and MCC and the Marijuana Policy Project when she introduced a bill in 2013? Public lobbyist registrations suggest that she must have nodded off when presented with the draft of the bill Azzi presented her.
Azzi first registered as lobbyist with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on February 5, 2013. Other lobbyists include medical organization Thomas Lehmann, who first counted MPP among the fifteen organizations on his client list on April 4, 2013; former Republican lawmaker Christopher DeLaForest (registered December 5, 2013); and Henry Erdman (registered January 1, 2014).
Public appearances together by Azzi and Melin
Moreover, Melin and Azzi appeared together in public in 2013 and well into the 2014 session. For instance, on November 8, 2013, MCC issued a Monday: Medical marijuana panel discussion featuring Minn. bill sponsor:
The University of Minnesota Duluth’s Center for Ethics and Public Policy will be hosting a panel discussion about the pending legislation that – if passed – would make Minnesota the 21st state to pass a medical marijuana law. This panel is free and open to the public, so feel free to attend.
What: Medical marijuana in Minnesota panel discussion
Who: Rep. Carly Melin, Heather Azzi, Rep. Bob Barrett, and Cody Wiberg
Where: University of Minnesota Duluth’s Bohannon Hall, Room 90
When: Monday, November 11, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
The panel will feature Rep. Carly Melin, the lead House sponsor of the medical marijuana bill that is pending before the Minnesota House of Representatives. Rep. Melin (DFL) represents District 6A, which includes the Iron Range in Itasca and St. Louis counties. Joining Rep. Melin will be Heather Azzi, the political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care who is working to protect seriously ill people from arrest and prosecution for using medical marijuana with doctors' recommendations. Rounding out the panel are Rep. Bob Barrett (R), who represents portions of Chisago County, and Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. . . .
The event was covered by Lake Voices News and other media. Rosemary Bray writes:
The bill was introduced earlier this year by Representative Carly Melin, member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. The purpose of the bill would be to allow doctors in Minnesota the right to prescribe medicinal marijuana to patients who are seriously ill or in chronic pain.
“I introduced the bill last year knowing there was going to be a lot of conversation surrounding it, with hopes to receive a lot of community input,” Melin said. “I continue to learn more and more about the benefits of medical marijuana and having forums like this is definitely beneficial in moving forward.” . . .
. . .“This legislation is to make sure people who are sick with chronic and terminal illnesses have access to medical marijuana if their doctor says it would be the best practice for them,” Melin said. “We’ve seen that there are a lot of other drugs out there that have more harsh effects than marijuana.”
According to Melin, the medical evidence of the benefits of marijuana is overwhelming; the biggest barrier is the legal and law enforcement issues. Minnesota is at an advantage because the law can be created based on what has been successful or not in the allowance of medical marijuana within other states.
While we are able to find a number of articles publics published in 2013 in which both Melin and Azzi are featured, what Bluestem has been unable to locate is any discussion of the pediatric use of medical cannabis.
UPDATE:We've found two 2013 references for Azzi and Melin discussing pediatric cannabis.
Via the Little Luella blog, kept by the parents of a Luverne, Minnesota girl living with Dravet Syndrome, we read in Katie Rucke's article posted in Mint Press News, Parents Weigh Children’s Health Against Medical Marij Laws:
Minnesota, where Luella lives, is one state where medical marijuana legislation is still under debate. Unlike New Jersey, which made it difficult for children to obtain medical marijuana, the proposal circulating in Minnesota intentionally allows children to qualify for the program, said Heather Azzi, political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, a medical marijuana advocacy group.
“Children suffer from the same illnesses as adults,” she said, adding that they need to be protected, too.
While the version of the MPN article now online is dated Augest 22, 2013, Rucke first tweeted a link to her report on July 16, 2013.
In the December 10, 2013 ECM publication, Mille Lacs Times, Carly Melin shares the Weaver story in Legislators prepare to present marijuana bill in next session:
She become interested in carrying medical marijuana legislation, Melin said, after learning of a family in her district whose 7-year-old daughter suffers from Dravet syndrome. The child suffers as many as 400 seizures a month, Melin said, and the first time her parents heard her utter a sound for many weeks was when she began to cry after breaking her arm in three places, with bone jutting through the skin, in a condition-related mishap.
Dravet syndrome is a rare and “catastrophic” form of epilepsy that begins in infancy, according to the Dravet Syndrome Foundation. Without the advent of better treatment, individuals with Dravet syndrome face a diminished quality of life, the foundation notes.
We will continue to dig. [end update]
Neither Azzi nor Melin talk about this use until January 2014. On January 18, 2014, the Duluth News Tribune reported that the story of Hibbing's Amelia Weaver led Melin to author the bill; the story was also in other Forum Communications venues like the Bemidji Pioneer. On March 4, the Mesabi Daily News reported in Pot Politics that "The Weaver family was the inspiration for Melin’s bill."
We find it curious that Melin didn't share her inspiration for sponsoring the bill before January. While we understand that the Weaver family might have wished for privacy before the session, certainly Melin might have mention pediatric application of cannabis oil somewhere in passing. The Weavers talk about seeing a video of Charlotte Figi ( presumably this one first posted on Febuary 8, 2013) so the discussion was in the public realm before the bill was introduced (although the famous Gupta CNN video about Figi wasn't aired until August 7, 2013).
But by May 10, 2014, Azzi--who worked with Melin for months on the issue--was denounced as a stealth recreational pot advocate. It seems to be a curious move on Melin's part, given her own record of involvement with MCC>
We'll be looking more into the timeline of when pediatric medical cannabis use began to be publicly discussed in Minnesota politics and let readers know what we find.
SCREENSHOT: Melin blasts her former ally in
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