Tim Majerus saw the benefit of medical marijuana first-hand while working as a pastor in hospice care and also while working with military veterans diagnosed with PTSD and chronic pain.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Timothy Majerus, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak in support of the medical marijuana bills today.
As a former military officer, adjunct college professor, Lutheran pastor, and, for the past 14 years, a therapist specializing in substance abuse counseling and domestic violence, I have seen first-hand how beneficial marijuana can be for those suffering from a variety of medical conditions.
I first came face-to-face with the benefits of medical marijuana while serving as a pastor. I worked with several terminally ill people in hospice care. Most, if not all, of these individuals, were prescribed medications that made them feel even sicker. Most, if not all, were also prescribed narcotics for their chronic pain and benzodiazepines for their end-of-life anxieties. Unfortunately, those patients who were prescribed those medications tended to exhibit signs of withdrawal and cravings for the prescribed medications as their tolerance to the drugs increased. Withdrawal and cravings are indications that their medications were physically addicting. The increase in tolerance meant that the medications eventually lost their effectiveness, so the patient would need more and more for the medication to be effective.
However, a few hospice patients chose to use marijuana, illegally of course, to help with their end-of-life coping, pain, and other ailments. The terminally ill patients who chose to violate the law and use marijuana all seemed to feel better as their nausea was greatly reduced and their appetites were heightened. At the same time, they each seemed to be more at ease with their end-of-life anxieties. These patients did not exhibit signs of withdrawal or cravings, leading me to conclude that marijuana is not addicting – physically or psychologically – as are the narcotics and benzodiazepines routinely prescribed.
As a former military officer, I have also observed the benefits that medical use of marijuana gives those among us who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other combat-related injuries. Like the hospice patients I worked with, Minnesota Northland veterans diagnosed with various forms of chronic pain, as well as PTSD, are also routinely prescribed narcotics and benzodiazepines for their conditions. Just like the terminally ill patients I dealt with in hospice care, I saw the veterans spending a great deal of time coping with the ill side effects of their prescribed medications, ultimately making their conditions even worse. The veterans, like the terminally ill patients, each faced issues with the physically addicting medications, which again included increased tolerance, withdrawal, and cravings for the medications. In order to avoid increasing the dosage of their medications, many of these veterans supplemented their prescriptions with alcohol — another physically addicting, yet legal, psychoactive substance.
A few of the veterans I worked with, like the terminally ill patients described above, chose to violate the law and use marijuana. Those who chose to do so were much better adjusted. They found that their chronic pain was lessened, and their PTSD was less debilitating and seemed to be in remission. These vets, like the hospice patients, found effective relief from their severe aliments from marijuana, a drug that is less addictive and less expensive than commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals. In fact, marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.
For the past 14 years, I have worked as a therapist specializing in addictions and domestic violence. As you are probably aware, alcohol was almost always a contributing factor in violent domestic disputes. However, I have yet to be involved in a domestic violence case where marijuana was involved. And while I fully support prohibiting and policing driving while impaired on any substance, it is worth noting that I have yet to work on a case involving a marijuana-related traffic accident. I do not need to tell you how dangerous the consumption of alcohol and driving can be. It is my clinical opinion that marijuana, if used correctly, is less harmful to the body and brain than both commonly prescribed narcotics and opiates, as well as alcohol.
I also speak before you as a military veteran suffering from health problems associated with my service. A terror attack I was involved with left me without hearing in my right ear due to the bomb’s concussion. I was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD, and I now cope with chronic neural pain in the right side of my face, which leads to migraines and severe headaches. I, too, have been prescribed narcotics for pain and benzodiazepines for PTSD. I have also been prescribed several other medications to help me fall asleep and to stay asleep. Although I know the value of using marijuana for these conditions, I have chosen to follow the law and instead cope with the side effects of not only the medical conditions, but also of the physically addicting medications. At this point in my career, and life, I am wondering why Minnesota has turned its back on not only the terminally ill and those who are greatly suffering with debilitating sicknesses, but also the many military veterans who fought for the freedoms that we enjoy today? I am wondering why my state wants to continue to criminalize the use and possession of a proven, effective, and relatively safe medicine?
Finally, I ask that you please consider recent comments by CNN’s chief medical correspondent, neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, who said that “Not only can [marijuana] work, but it can work when nothing else does.” I urge you to look closely at this issue and the evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy and ask that you support adding Minnesota to the ever-growing list of states that allow the sick and suffering to use marijuana with doctors’ recommendations.