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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Brown County medical marijuana push

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news Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

MANKATO, Minn.  --  The Minnesota legislature might not see much movement on the medical marijuana push, but a case in Brown County could help redirect the issue. 

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Mankato lawyers Calvin Johnson and Elizabeth Levine will be in court this morning in Brown County, asking for a jury trial for a New Ulm man who faces criminal charges even though he was growing marijuana only for his personal, medical use. Johnson says that keeping marijuana a schedule one drug doesn't hold up any longer.  He says we've got 750,000 soldiers from Iraq and Iran who have PTSD; marijuana seems to help.  Twenty states and the District of Columbia already have legitimized marijuana for medical exceptions.  A recent survey by Saint Cloud State University found 76-percent of Minnesotans favor legalizing medical marijuana, and Johnson says it is Minnesotans who would be sitting on a jury to hear his client's case.

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Portions of two lawsuits seeking to force the Diocese of Duluth to release documents detailing child sexual abuse cases have been tossed out.  The judge ruled that the plaintiffs cannot pursue the release of the documents through private and public nuisance claims. Charges that the diocese was negligent in its handling of sex abuse cases will remain open.  Plaintiff's attorney Mike Finnegan says he's disappointed in the ruling but it will not significantly affect his firm's strategy going forward.  The suits are two of three filed against the Diocese of Duluth under a new state statute that took effect last May, extending the time period for sexual abuse victims to file civil lawsuits. 

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It's a deadly year on Minnesota roads so far in 2014.  The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says since March 1, 19 people have died in crashes.  That brings the year-to-date total to 58, which is six more than were killed at this time last year.  There were at least two fatal crashes yesterday in the state.  Police are warning drivers to slow down during the current rough winter weather.

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Rochester police arrested a man after a brief chase Sunday night and discovered not only was he driving drunk, but it wasn't his first time.  Not even close.  Officials say an officer on Safe and Sober patrol spotted a car weaving on Highway 52, and followed the vehicle when the driver exited to city streets.  When the suspect ran a red light the officer tried to pull him over, and he drove a few more blocks before bailing out of the car and trying to run. It didn't take long for the officer to catch the 41-year-old man and arrest him for drunk driving. Court records show he has 6 prior DUI arrests.

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Twin Cities metro, and a winter storm warning is in effect through tomorrow morning north and west of a line from Granite Falls to St. Cloud and Pine City.  Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen say a total of six to twelve inches is expected.  Central and much of southern Minnesota are under a winter weather advisory and could see three to six inches of new snow.  The only area expected to be mostly spared by this storm is the far southeast corner of the state, with Rochester expected to get just an inch; however, meteorologists say isolated portions of the southeast region could see one to three inches of accumulation.

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More details have emerged in the case of a 6-year-old Bemidji girl that froze to death last month.  Mercedes Mayfield was found dead near the front entrance of an apartment building by her mother, after spending the night outdoors in -27 degree temperatures.  Mercedes' cousin, 22-year-old Rachel Downer, is charged in her death.  The criminal complaint states that the girl's mother put Downer in charge of watching Mercedes and another child because she was taking pain medication and went to bed early.  Downer claims she was planning to take the child to her apartment and later changed her mind.  Mercedes apparently helped Downer carry her belongings to her car, and Downer claims she watched the child reenter the apartment building and then drove away.  KSTP-TV spoke with Mayfield, who says she is, "going through a tough time right now."  She faces ten years in prison if convicted of neglect and endangerment of a child.

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Funeral services are this afternoon for an Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School senior killed last week in an avalanche while snowmobiling in Montana.  Superintendent Sheri Broderius says 18-year-old Zach Junkermeier was a running back on the football team and also a strong Spanish student who was set to study the language in Puerto Rico in a few weeks.  She says it speaks to Junkermeier's appreciation for other cultures.  Services are at 2 p-m in the ACGC High School gymnasium.

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Hundreds of Minnesotans with disabilities and their advocates converge on the State Capitol today for their annual lobbying day.  Steve Larson with The Arc Minnesota says the top issue this session is a five-percent wage increase for those who help people with disabilities live in the community.  He says those workers support 90-thousand Minnesotans and they haven't had a raise in a long time.  Larson says they also want lawmakers to pass anti-bullying legislation.  Larson says students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be bullied and the bill has been fixed to meet the needs of most groups.  

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How much money veterans programs get from the state's billion-dollar budget surplus remains to be seen.  Chair Mary Murphy from Hermantown told the House State Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Monday their budget received "no new money" when a key panel decided how the surplus will be used.  Forest Lake Republican Bob Dettmer says several veterans bills require extra funding and questions whether lawmakers are just spinning their wheels.  Chair Murphy responded if agencies have money left in their budgets, the committee can consider funding those programs.  She notes that recommendations of a special committee on veterans housing, plus costs for pensions, will be carried in another committee's bill.

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With yet another snowstorm blanketing Minnesota, skin cancer is probably not on the minds of most people today -- but summer sun is not far off and melanoma remains a concern.  Recent breakthroughs in treatment contain good news, according to Mayo Clinic oncologist Dr. Richard Joseph.  One already approved for use increases survival rates by allowing the immune system to "rev-up" and fight the melanoma.  A second treatment still in clinical trials blocks the ability of the immune system to turn itself off.  Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer that develops in the cells that produce melanin -- the pigment that gives your skin color.

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The Mayo Clinic Cancer Education Center is hosting a public event in Rochester today on colon cancer awareness.  It includes the latest updates on prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and care.  In addition, those attending will have an opportunity to walk through a giant inflatable colon and learn more about polyps. Mayo Clinic officials say the most important message is to learn about colon cancer screening and understanding risk factors. Experts and educators will be on hand to answer questions and provide resources and support.

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A chain of Minnesota mental health clinics closed all six of it's locations yesterday (Mon) without explanation.  For now, Riverwood Center's emergency crisis hotline will still be staffed with counselors to help people in need. KSMP-TV is reporting that patients received an email saying the clinics would be shutting down Monday, but that was the only notice they got. Riverwood Center operated clinics in Braham , Cambridge, Milaca, Mora, North Branch, and Pine City.

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