Do you think legislators deserve a pay raise? Apparently my colleagues under one party rule think so. Last year they passed a constitutional amendment to establish a Legislative Salary Council that would take the issue out of the hands of legislators and put it in the hands of a nonpartisan council. On May 9th, Democrats passed a bill that would establish the Legislative Salary Council if the amendment is passed on the ballot in 2016.
On its face, that sounds harmless. Unfortunately what Democrats know is that nearly every state that has established a Legislative Salary Council has increased legislator pay. In fact, the only instance in recent history where legislator pay has been lowered was in California during a budget crisis. Legislators there already make over $100,000 per year.
Make no mistake: this legislation will result in a pay increase for legislators. I don't believe in putting self service before public service.
Thus far, one party control brought Minnesota a $2.1 billion tax increase to pay for a $4.5 billion spending increase, the largest in Minnesota history; pay increases for politicians; a $89.5 million Senate Office building, and ObamaCare which forced 280,000 off their private health insurance, and 3/4 of the 206,000 new enrollees were on public tax payer funded insurance (MNCare, MA).
On Friday, the House passed legislation that would essentially legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Minnesota. The issue of legalizing medical marijuana is very complex and complicated. To put it into perspective, when a pharmaceutical company like Merck wants to bring a drug to market, they must work through a stringent FDA approval process. This process takes between 10 to 15 years from inception of the unique compound to market at a typical cost of $1.6 billion. The single compound is tested on dividing cells to look for genetic mutations in small animals for life cycle studies and large mammals for both effectiveness and toxicity levels. After several years of careful gross and cellular studies, the compound goes into human trials. The legislation that we are attempting to pass here in Minnesota completely bypasses the FDA, skips all cellular studies, animal studies and human controlled clinical trials (with a control group that gets a placebo). The Minnesota legislature is attempting to turn the Minnesota Department of Health into the FDA and to which department officials have stated that they are not equipped or able to do.
Now let's talk specifically about marijuana. Depending on the source of information, there are about 450 hybrid strains or types of marijuana (NOT one) with widely varying amounts of THC (the compound that results in the chemical high) and cannabinoids (CBD) thought to have medicinal power, of which there are about 86 different CBD compounds. Just like in tobacco, there are 483 known compounds also in greatly varying amounts depending on the hybrid strain. With the legalization of marijuana in California and Colorado, there are new hybrids being developed to add to this list. Most commonly when the FDA approves a new drug for market, it contains ONE compound. Again, marijuana contains 483 different compounds and depending on which of the over 450 strains, vary greatly in the concentrations of the 483 different compounds. How is a doctor to know which strain to prescribe, at what dose, for how long? There simply is not enough scientific research to safely and effectively dose. It is like the Wild Wild West of Pharmacology.
The Mayo Clinic states on their website, "There is no proven safe or effective dose for marijuana in children." And yet, the very reason stated for the urgency to pass this legislation was for the sufferings of children with epilepsy. Believe me – I am very sympathetic to the sufferings of children having held my 18 month old as she took her last breath as she slipped away from me from a brain tumor. However, this may not be the best way to help suffering children.
The Mayo Clinic goes on to state that "the most commonly studied ingredients in marijuana are THC and cannabidiol (CBD). Research has looked at these compounds both alone and in combination. Commercially available products include dronabinol (Marinol®), nabilone (Cesamet®), THC, and CBD (Sativex®)." Research is moving in the direction of studying the risks and benefits of medical marijuana.
The Senate passed a very different medical marijuana bill so a conference committee will meet to work out the differences between the two bills. Once the conference committee has reconciled the differences, identical versions of a medical marijuana bill will come before the House and Senate.
As always, please still feel free to contact me about any state legislative issue. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.