TESTIMONY OF JERRY AND CARMEN PETERSON
Jerry and Carmen’s son, Dan, was diagnosed with terminal cancer when he was only 28 years old. When other medications were ineffective, Dan tried marijuana. The marijuana reduced his pain, took away his nausea and loss of appetite, and enabled him to live far longer than his doctors projected.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and fellow committee members. My wife Carmen and I are here today to support the medical marijuana bill presently being considered. My work history includes 26 years with the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Twenty of those years were spent as a Lt. and two as a caseworker. I was security director for the Treatment Unit at Minnesota Correctional Facility Oak Park Heights from 1982-1984, giving me much exposure to the negative effects of the illicit use of drugs. I was also a licensed part-time police officer in Hastings for eight years. Our daughter is presently a Sgt. with the Madison, Wisconsin, Police Department and has been employed there for 13 years.
I give you this background to assure you that we’re not at all supportive of the illicit use of recreational drugs. But that’s not what this issue is about.
Let me start at the beginning: On October 5, 2004, at the age of 28, our son, Daniel Milton Peterson, was diagnosed with inoperable terminal cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma. This is an extremely rare disease of the bile duct and causes cancer of the liver. Danny died September 8, 2006, at the age of 30.
Danny was given a death sentence of three to six months to live in October 2004. He had three adoring daughters, a stepson, a wife, sister, and two loving parents. He also had 16 aunts and uncles, a grandmother, 12 cousins, and his dog, Jasmine, as well as an enormous number of friends. There were more than 600 people at his funeral — a testament to how he was loved and respected by his family, friends, and colleagues.
Danny lived life to the fullest. At his funeral, our pastor titled the eulogy “W.O.T.” We didn’t know what this meant until our pastor talked about how Danny lived his short life at WIDE OPEN THROTTLE. We now fully understood the title.
With regard to the treatment for his cancer, Danny was given numerous rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, which caused him to lose 60 pounds due to extreme nausea and total loss of appetite. Dan was hospitalized 15 times, for a total of 57 days, and underwent 14 surgeries.
The list of pharmaceuticals he was given was lengthy, to say the least. They included Coumadin, Lovenox, Ambien, Lasix, along with a Fentanyl patch, oxycodone, and morphine for pain; for depression and anxiety, lorazepam, trazodone, and Celexa. Some of these medications caused Danny to hallucinate and behave erratically, which frustrated and angered him because he knew his behavior wasn’t right.
There were many antibiotics for the multiple infections he developed due to a weakened immune system. Compounding matters, Dan discovered he was allergic to many medications, severely restricting the meds he could take.
The anti-nausea medications in particular didn’t work, leading him to the point of trying medical marijuana, provided by a family member as a gift. It led to an immediate change in the quality of life he had left. It reduced his pain and took away his nausea and loss of appetite, which enabled him to live far beyond all projections given by his oncologist at the Mayo Clinic. We were told by the oncologist that this was beyond anything he’d ever seen.
During his two-year battle with cancer, Danny insisted on maintaining and growing his lawn care, snow removal, and landscaping business, Dan Peterson Services, which he started on his own in 2001, not to mention trying to uphold his duties as a husband and father of four. He couldn’t have done these important things without the use of medical marijuana to alleviate his nausea, pain, and lack of appetite.
In summary, I would like to state that if you haven’t personally been through this journey with a loved one, you cannot imagine what it does to you and everyone surrounding you. We’re blessed to spend significant time with our daughter-in-law and grandchildren, but the pain of our loss is always just below the surface. The use of medical marijuana by our son allowed him a much greater quality of life, with reduced pain and suffering. After witnessing the near-miraculous benefits it provided to our son, my wife and I agreed that we would go to jail or prison, if need be, to support him in this particular use of what is presently an illegal drug.
In Dan’s memory, and for all those who continue to grapple with similar situations, we very much want to thank you for taking the time to consider the medical marijuana bill before you, and we hope that you will vote to pass it into law.
Jerry and Carmen Peterson