Meet the Patients
More about medical marijuana
Patrick K. Lynch, Sioux Falls suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Lynch formerly served as the chairman for the North-Central States chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Lynch is the official sponsor of Initiated Measure 13 (Safe Access Act) and the founder of the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion.
Valerie Hannah, Hill City suffers from chronic nervous pain associated with Agent Orange Syndrome that she contracted when serving in the gulf war.
Tom Faltynowicz is a rancher in southern Meade County. Tom has suffered from AIDS since 1990, at which point his prognosis was that he had just a few years left.. Fortunately for Tom, he has successfully eased wasting syndrome and maintained good health since then. This success story is largely in part because Tom immediately pursued medical marijuana therapy after finding out about his poor T-Cell count in 1990.
Although Tom was following the guidance of his AIDS specialist and physician, he faced his worst nightmare in October 2007 when police raided his home and arrested him for the lowest-class felony charge of possessing more than two ounces of marijuana, but less than half a pound. This charge carries a maximum sentence of two years in the state penitentiary and a $4,000 fine.
Dr. Douglas Traub, a internal medicine specialist at the Rapid City Regional Hospital has been Tom’s primary physician since 1990. Traub testified telephonically in court on Tom’s behalf before his sentencing for using medical marijuana under his recommendation.
Traub explained in his testimony he had treated Tom for over ten years and during that time Tom’s health had improved somewhat, rather than having declined as might be expected of an AIDS patient with the “indicators” Tom’s blood exhibited in 1998.
Traub went on to explain, maintaining a healthy diet is a principal problem among patients who must take certain medicines loaded with toxic chemicals, such as AIDS sufferers and those undergoing chemo-therapy for cancer, “I prescribed Marinol (synthesized THC, the main psychoactive in marijuana) for appetite stimulation. We also discussed smoked marijuana, which many patients find more effective, with less negative side-effects than Marinol. I was aware that Tom was using marijuana for his wasting syndrome.”
“Tom has plainly benefited from using marijuana.”
- Dr. Douglas Traub
Cynthia Siragusa of Rapid City suffers from severe muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.
Matthew Duchenaux of Sioux Falls was arrested in July 2000 for smoking marijuana in South Dakota. Ducheneaux was a quadriplegic who used marijuana with his doctor’s permission to treat violent muscle spasms.
Wheelchair-bound since a 1985 car accident, Ducheneaux had tried Valium, codeine, and even Marinol to treat spasms that cause his legs to shake so violently that the floor of his home trembles in response. Nothing calmed his tremors, and many of the drugs he tried had undesirable side effects, including hair loss, extreme drowsiness, and liver toxicity.
After finding that marijuana treated his spasms, Ducheneaux sought permission to use marijuana. In 1988, he was approved for a now-discontinued program through which seriously ill people can obtain marijuana from the federal government. However, the federal government required such strong security measures for pharmacies serving patients in the program — such as 24-hour armed guards — that Ducheneaux could not find a local pharmacy willing to comply, so he had to find marijuana from friends or drug dealers.
Ducheneaux asked his doctor for a note saying he used marijuana for medical purposes, hoping that such a note might prove useful if he were ever to get into trouble with the law. The note stated, “Matthew is quadriplegic. He uses marijuana for muscle spasms caused by his paralysis.”
Ducheneaux did not have the note with him the day of his arrest, but the existence of the note later prompted the DEA to threaten to investigate his doctor for prescribing an illegal drug.
On August 28, 2002, Matthew Ducheneaux was convicted of marijuana possession. A previous ruling had barred him from telling the jury that he used marijuana for medical purposes. Ducheneaux’s attorney believed the jury’s hands were tied: “All of them conclusively said afterward that they didn’t want to find him guilty.”
Even prosecutor Matthew Theophilus had doubts about blocking any mention of Ducheneaux’s medical reasons for using marijuana, noting, “I think there is some merit to his defense.”
Ducheneaux received a five-day suspended sentence and was barred from using marijuana for year; he had faced a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The South Dakota Supreme Court later upheld Ducheneaux’s conviction, as well as the court ruling barring his medical necessity defense. Ducheneaux passed away on May 23, 2005.
Robert M. Trygstad of Colman suffers from multiple myeloma, one of the most severe types of rare blood cancer, and also has several tumors through out his body. After losing over 100 pounds and shrinking 5.5 inches Trygstad is risking the ability to ease wasting syndrome and in turn prolong his life because of harsh criminal repercussions that would face his family if he pursued medical marijuana therapy.
Trygstad began advocating for the Coalition and measure 13 in late April when he published the following letter-to-the-Editor in the Argus Leader:
Letters: Medical Marijuana Safe
By James M. Tygstad, Colman
As a sick person fighting cancer for years, I am appalled at the misinformation presented in the essay in the April 19 Argus Leader opposed to medical marijuana and a subsequent letter to the editor. Medical marijuana is a safe and natural medicine that alleviates nausea, which is common with most types of cancer and especially with chemoradiation therapy.
Do people honestly believe our laws are proper? A person such as me who might choose to use a little marijuana, whether vaporized or made in my tea, should not have to worry about the police knocking on the door.
The Safe Access Act proposed in South Dakota is nothing like the California law, nor does it allow for marijuana dispensaries or stores. This proposal simply allows patients such as me to use our medicine in peace.
I commend the retired police officer who wrote the accompanying essay in the April 19 newspaper in support of the Safe Access Act. He exemplified what true priorities for law enforcement should be.
I am not a criminal, and neither are the many doctors who tell me what effective therapy is. Please protect patients such as me who already are sentenced with a terminal illness.
Please vote yes on Initiated Measure 13.