As Bluestem has noted, endorsed Republican lieutenant governor candidate Bill Kuisle--Jeff Johnson's running mate--is filling the gap left in our blogging universe since Emo Senator Mike Parry retired from politics.
A report of a recent visit to Bemidji does not disappoint, as Kuisle situates his running mate as being on the same page as Governor Dayton on medical cannabis.
Medical cannabis just not Kuisle's bag
In the June 26 Bemidji Pioneer, staff writer Zach Kayser reports in Johnson running mate visits Bemidji : Bill Kuisle is former state representative from Rochester:
Kuisle said social issues likely wouldn't play a large role in this year's election.
"I think we've got enough to run on without getting into the social issues," he said. "Will we be bashed for certain positions that we take? Of course. But then again, we're taking positions, people want to know our positions, we're not going to shy away from them."
He did point out Johnson's support of the recent legalization of medical marijuana in Minnesota, a unique stance in the Republican field of candidates.
"He would have signed the bill that passed this year," Kuisle said of Johnson. "I'm probably more cautious on that issue, but Jeff's the governor candidate."
That's a fairly curious representation of Johnson's position, since it's been reported this month that Johnson would have supported measures closer to the Senate version of the bill. City Pages' Jesse Marx reported on June 9 in Jeff Johnson is the only Republican candidate for governor who supports medical marijuana:
On the right, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has emerged as both the MN GOP endorsee and the only supporter of medical marijuana (now that state Sen. Dave Thompson has bowed out). Although Johnson considers himself a "pretty strong social conservative," he's expressed repeated support for Illinois's four-year pilot program, which allows smoking and covers a relatively wide range of illnesses. It more closely resembles the Minnesota Senate proposal that got eclipsed in the final bill here.
As a state representative, Johnson once sat on the Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee, but he claims he never seriously considered the issue until he announced his candidacy for governor.
He explained his position this way: "When I hear doctors say, 'I've had patients who at the end of their lives are suffering terribly, and if I had this option it would be a better option than anything else I could give to them to die peacefully,' that's powerful."
Update: On Friday's Almanac debate, Johnson stated plainly that he would have supported the Senate version. Hat-tip: Al Juhnke, via Facebook. [end update]
Kuisle must be thinking of Johnson's position as reported in Tom Hauser's March 27 article Most GOP Candidates for Minn. Governor Oppose Medical Marijuana:
Although they unanimously condemned Dayton for his comments to the parents, most of them agree with his position on medical marijuana. Dayton is opposed to signing a bill that doesn't have the support of law enforcement and the medical community. He has offered a bill that would call for a study of the issue before any decisions are made.
At their news conference Thursday, four of the five Republican candidates said they'd be unlikely to sign a medical marijuana bill as governor. Only Jeff Johnson left open the door to signing such legislation.
"I have been on the record as being willing to sign a medical marijuana bill," Johnson said. "Not necessarily the one that's out there right now, but if it very strictly controlled access that's something I'd be willing to do as governor."
That's not far from what Kuisle's saying, but Johnson's position on medical cannabis has evolved since that March press conference.
Johnson had shifted from statements made to Cyndy Brucato in May 2013 and published in GOP candidate Jeff Johnson on raising taxes, stricter gun control, gay marriage: He's opposed:
MP: Would you support the legislative proposal to legalize medical marijuana?
JJ: You stumped me. I don’t know.
And that Illinois bill? In March, Johnson was under the impression that it was more restrictive than that Dibble bill in the senate. The Associated Press's Brian Bakst reported in Would-be Dayton challengers split on medical marijuana:
Among the Republicans, only Thompson and Johnson said they would be open to the possibility of signing a bill, but not the plan currently before lawmakers. Johnson referenced an Illinois medical marijuana model that had strict access and prescribing techniques as something he'd be comfortable endorsing.
"If we can control production and distribution like we do other prescription drugs I am open to it," Thompson said. "But I do not support the current bill that is out there."
What were the proposed Illinois rules at that time? Check out news report here. We suspect that the Illinois final rules are even more palatable for Johnson (though Kuisle would still pass) after the restriction that would have made patients chose between their weapons or their weed was dropped in April.
Maybe Team Johnson can help his running mate out with some talking points that explain how the endorsed Republican candidate's position on medical cannabis isn't the same as those held by the DFL incumbent.
Photo: Kuisle (left) is dazed and confused about where running mate Jeff Johnson (right) stands on medical cannabis. Hint: it's more "liberal" than Governor Dayton. We're not sure what's bumming out Kuisle's son, the child in the MPR photo.
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