I was standing at the IM13 (Medical Cannabis Initiated Measure, on the Nov. ballot) table in the Soule Building at the Central States Fair (Rapid City SD) Saturday, talking with Emmett Reistroffer, who was manning it at the time. A woman, I’ll peg her at 75 years old, stopped beside me and started to ask, “What is IM13?,” then saw the medical cannabis reference, and said, “Oh. My husband had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. He got some marijuana for the nausea. He smoked some and then went into the bathroom and cut his throat.”
My initial reaction was unutterable. I didn’t speak. Emmett said, “I’m sorry that happened.” She walked away.
Her story is plausible, up to the part about him “cutting his throat.” The motives for suicide are infinite in variety; the methods are limited to a few, ranging from efficient and relatively painless to batshit crazy masochistic exercises, like cutting your own throat. Suicides among cancer patients are not uncommon, but I suspect that method is rare.
Then there’s the assigning of blame on the fact that he tried cannabis. It’s hard to speculate on the relevant facts of this case, because I don’t know them. I do know that cannabis use is not linked to a pattern of suicides. I know that a person undergoing cancer therapy, especially if the prognosis is not encouraging, can rationally decide that it is not worth the effort and misery.
It is possible that this woman’s husband finally tried marijuana because nothing else relieved his misery and/or nausea. It’s possible the marijuana didn’t work, either. No medicine works for everyone. It’s possible he decided at that point that life wasn’t worth living. I just can’t believe that he’d choose to end it via seppuku.
By the way, for every incident like that, we have 20 people come up to us and tell us of a personal experience that supports our argument that doctors and patients should be able to decide on a course of therapy that includes cannabis and not necessarily jail. Or thinking you have to decapitate yourself to absolve you and your family of shame because you tried a benign, sometimes helpful, common herb to alleviate your suffering.