ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday appointed 16 members to a task force that will study the impact of the state's new medical marijuana law.
The governor's appointees to the Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research range from law enforcement officials to people who treat substance abuse to potential patients and their parents. They're charged with overseeing the rollout of Minnesota's program and evaluating access to the drug, the quality of medication and its impact on law enforcement and the medical community.
Patients are expected to be able to get medical marijuana starting July 1, 2015.
The Legislature passed a bill that gave Minnesota one of the nation's strictest such laws. Patients can only use a pill, liquid or vaporized form of the drug, and only those who suffer from eight illnesses including cancer, HIV/AIDS and glaucoma will qualify for the program.
That bill also created the 23-member task force, which will also include of two members from each the House and Senate and the commissioners of the departments of Health, Human Services and Public Safety.
Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers' association, is one of four law enforcement representatives on the task force. He said he'll bring the perspective of the "rank and file" police officer to the group and help advance research on the medicinal value of marijuana.
"I think there's probably not been enough research. Hopefully Minnesota can play a key role in that," he said.
For several years, police groups opposed efforts to legalize medical marijuana. Their support of the stricter bill was crucial to its passage and Dayton's signature.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, a vocal opponent of legalizing marijuana for medical use, said he'll also add a law enforcement perspective to studying the impact of the state's new law.
"We want to make sure that there's proper oversight of the entire process," Backstrom said. "The states that have had significant public safety concerns regarding medical marijuana laws that have passed, there hasn't been a lot of oversight."
Minnesota is one of 23 states, plus the District of Columbia, that has legalized medical marijuana.
Other members named to the task force include: Duane Bandel of Minneapolis, a consumer member; Maria Botker of Clinton, a parent member; Karina Forrest of White Bear Township, a substance use treatment provider; James Franklin from the Minnesota Sheriffs Association; Dr. Pamela Gonzalez of Minneapolis, a substance use treatment provider, David Hartford of St. Cloud, a substance use treatment provider; Dr. Vincent Hayden of Minneapolis, a substance use treatment provider; David Kolb from the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association; Doreen McIntyre of Champlin, a health care provider; Jeremy Pauling of Montevideo, a parent member; Dr. Charles Reznikoff of Minneapolis, a health care provider; Laura Schwartzwald of Aitkin, a pharmacist member; Sarah Wellington of St. Paul, a consumer member; and Dr. Dawn Wyllie of Bemidji, a health care provider.