Initially reluctant, cancer patient felt medical benefits from marijuana, daughter says
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Talking about her mother still brings tears to Kathy Rippentrop’s eyes.
A longtime resident of Lakeville, Rippentrop was drawn into the medical marijuana debate as the result of her mother, the late Jane Schmidt, being diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in November 2003.
Part of her mother’s medical regimen was taking Merinol, Rippentrop said. Merinol is a synthetic drug, a synthetic version of chemicals naturally occurring in marijuana.
But the drug didn’t work well for her mother, Rippentrop said. She couldn’t keep it down.
A family friend urged her father to try marijuana as an alternative.
A recovering alcoholic and drug user, her father was highly reluctant to bring an illegal substance into the home, Rippentrop said, testifying before a Minnesota legislative committee in a previous session. But after watching his wife suffer, he felt he had to do something, Rippentrop said.
Obtaining seeds from Amsterdam, her father began cultivating what he deemed was his wife’s cancer medicine, Rippentrop said.
Her mother — a “Mary Poppins kind of woman,” Rippentrop said, did not like the idea of smoking marijuana. But it worked.
“When she took the first puff, it would knock out her nausea within five minutes,” Rippentrop said. “It didn’t take a lot — a couple of puffs.”
Besides controlling nausea, the marijuana whetted her mother’s appetite.
Her mother was haunted by the gaunt image of the late television evangelist Tammy Faye in the late stages of her cancer. She didn’t want to end up looking like that, Rippentrop said.
The fact the family was pursuing an illegal activity did not overly concern them.
“You’re not going to let a loved love suffer. I would never let anybody suffer,” Rippentrop said.
Rippentrop believes medical marijuana got her mother through the early stages of her cancer. It helped prolong her mother’s life — her mother lived for four and half years after her first diagnosis, she said.
Her mother was an avid traveler, and medical marijuana, by controlling otherwise debilitating symptoms, let her travel, Rippentrop said.
She remembers a trip to Mexico she, her mother and a sister took several months before her mother died. Her father urged her to take along two marijuana cigarettes, but Rippentrop was nervous about crossing the border.
“That’s when I got afraid,” she said.
“But my mom said, ‘Oh, just give them to me. I’m terminal.’ So she carried them down,” Rippentrop said.
Marijuana is not a “destroyer of families,” Rippentrop believes. She views alcohol as a much more dangerous drug.
“All these people going crazy over a plant,” Rippentrop said.
Law enforcement officials should focus on more serious threats, she argues.
“It’s not going to change my life, because I don’t use it,” Rippenstrop said of legalizing medical marijuana.
“But I just think what’s being done (prohibiting it) is so, so wrong,” she said.
Rippentrop plans to lobby for passage of medical marijuana during the next legislative session, which begins in February.
Tim Budig is at [email protected].
(Editor’s note: Read more about medical marijuana legislation and efforts at the Capitol in this report.)