Grandmother With Terminal Cancer Jailed for Traces of THC

By Kelly Burch 05/11/17

The woman was using a prescribed, synthetic form of THC to enhance her appetite while she underwent chemo.

Image: 
an elderly woman behind bars.

A Kansas grandmother with terminal cancer was jailed for 48 hours after driving with traces of THC in her blood, despite the fact that the THC came from Marinol, an FDA-approved medication for cancer patients. 

Angela Kastner, of Wichita, Kansas, has colorectal cancer. The medication Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, was prescribed to Kastner to help her eat while she is undergoing chemotherapy. However, when she was stopped while driving and found to have trace amounts of THC in her system, she was charged with driving under the influence. 

"I had ... Marinol in my system that the doctors in Oklahoma gave me to fight cancer. I've been fighting cancer five years," Kastner told KAKE News. Kastner pled no contest to the DUI charge and was sentenced to 48 hours in county jail. She said that the jail time would interrupt her treatment. “I miss my chemo… and I miss my doctor's appointment," she told the news station before heading to jail.

However, Colonel Brenda Dietzman with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office said that Kastner chose the date on which to begin her sentence, and that the jail regularly accommodates the medical needs of inmates. "We routinely, on a daily basis, take inmates to dialysis and other medical procedures and appointments," Dietzman said. "We take the care of our inmates very seriously.”

Kastner’s pharmacist said that the amount of THC in her blood was not enough to make her high. 

Kastner said that she was sharing her story to raise awareness of the issue. "I feel sorry for the next cancer patient who has to go through anything I have had to go through,” she said. “They shouldn't have to do this at the end of their life.”

Kansas is one of a handful of states where medical marijuana remains entirely illegal, although the legislature is considering allowing access to low-THC products. Despite the fact that Kansas does not allow medical marijuana, Marinol, the pill whose active ingredient is THC, has been legal throughout the country since 1985. 

"Marinol provides standardized THC concentrations, does not contain the other 400 uncharacterized substances found in smoked marijuana, such as carcinogens or fungal spores, and is not associated with the quick high of smoked marijuana," Neil Hirsch, a spokesman for Marinol manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals, told CBS News

While Marinol has proven medical benefits, some people say that it does not provide the same sort of relief that marijuana does. 

"[One] problem with Marinol is that it's orally administered," Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, told CBS. "Therefore, it takes longer to work than cannabis inhaled from a vaporizer. (Usually 90 minutes at best rather than 15 seconds—a meaningful amount of time to the nauseated.)"

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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