By Kate Raddatz

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Advocates met in St. Paul Thursday to push for easier access to legal marijuana.

The third annual Minnesota Cannabis Summit took place at Hamline University. The event featured doctors and business owners talking about the potential benefits of cannabis.

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Julie Engle struggled with pain and and fatigue for years from ulcerative colitis and fibromyalgia — until the mother of three tried medicinal marijuana last year.

“Growing up, people would just get stoned,” Engle said. “So I always had it in my head: You party. You get high.”

She’s attended the annual Cannabis Summit to learn and to advocate for adult access to cannabis.

“Now I’m kind of on a mission to de-stigmatize [and] normalize cannabis use, because it’s just not that big of a deal,” Engle said.

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While many people there wanted to see adult use of marijuana become legal, the day was less about politics and more about education. Doctors and organizers spoke to a roomful of attendees about potential health benefits — everything from treating anxiety to chronic pain and sleep problems. Medicinal marijuana is currently only available in Minnesota to people with qualifying health conditions.

“Research is interpreted by every physician differently. Personally, I think it should be a decision that’s left up to the provider and the patient,” said Dr. Stephen Dahmer with Minnesota Medical Solutions.

“We’re in the midst of a terrible opioid crisis,” said Gunnar Aas with Sensible Minnesota. “We’ve seen, in states that have legalized, that it’s an incredibly effective way to get people to taper off the painkillers that are killing tens of thousands of people a year.”

Opponents to legalizing marijuana have expressed concerns about impaired driving and the impact on youth.

Several lawmakers also took part in the event, including Republican Senator Scott Jensen who is a medical doctor. Governor Tim Walz has said he would legalize marijuana for recreational use if a bill reaches his desk in 2020.

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Republicans in the state senate rejected legalizing recreational marijuana earlier this year. So far, 11 states and the District of Columbia have have made it legal.

Kate Raddatz