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Veterans deserve cannabis. Here’s how you can help

July 11, 2018
(Malven/iStock)
Thirty US states and Washington DC have legalized cannabis for adult use, and the majority of Americans reportedly support legalizing cannabis nationwide. Despite all of this, 20 million American veterans are still blocked from receiving safe, legal, and affordable access to cannabis. Although doctors employed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs are permitted to discuss medical cannabis with their patients in states where the plant is already legal, VA docs aren’t currently able to prescribe cannabis—even in states like California and Colorado.United States Veterans are two times more likely to succumb to accidental overdose, and we’re losing more than 20 of them to suicide every day. But cannabis could help. According to a survey conducted by the American Legion back in 2017, 82 percent of all veterans and caregivers want to have cannabis available as a federally legal treatment, 92 percent support research into medical cannabis, and 20 percent of veterans report that they are already using cannabis to treat their medical or physical conditions.

As time, the American people, and veterans themselves continue to favor legalization, we’ll start to see more and more support for veterans’ right to non-opioid medication. In the meantime, here are just a few ways to help US veterans get access to cannabis.

Support cannabis organizations that support veterans

Whether you’re hoping to donate time, money, or social media exposure, there are an encouraging number of organizations that are solely dedicated to helping veterans get safe and legal access to cannabis. Here are our top picks:

Veterans Cannabis Project           

Created by U.S. Navy Seal Nick Etten, the Veterans Cannabis Project (VCP) is exactly what it sounds like: an organization dedicated to improving veterans’ quality of life through safe and legal cannabis access. VCP empowers veterans to live healthy, fulfilling lives, while advocating on their behalf for unrestricted and supported access to medical cannabis through the VA. The folks over at VCP also believe that the cannabis industry is uniquely positioned to help unemployed veterans secure successful and fulfilling work.

Weed for Warriors Project

The Weed for Warriors Project provides veterans with safe and legal access to free cannabis. (Though proof of service and a current medical recommendation are required.) Weed for Warriors also provides veterans with information about medical cannabis and a safe place to fellowship with other veterans.

Hero Grown

Founded in 2014 as Grow for Vets, Hero Grown is nationally recognized as one of the leading organizations fighting for veterans’ right to use cannabis. Hero Grown strives to raise awareness, advocate, and assist veterans, first responders and their families with the use of cannabis as a safe alternative to prescription drugs. Amazingly, Hero Grown has given away over two million dollars’ worth of cannabis products to veterans since its inception.

Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance

The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance has been providing veterans with safe and legal access to high-quality, lab-tested cannabis since 2011. The organization also aims to be a community for veterans to reach out to one another and share their experiences. Additionally, SCVA advocates the health benefits of cannabis and focuses on how to better address issues of pharmaceutical dependence, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and PTSD.

Related

The VA can’t provide cannabis to veterans with PTSD, so this group gives it out for free

Get involved in local cannabis reform

Even in states where cannabis is completely illegal—like Wisconsin, Georgia, and Missouri—more and more American cities are either reducing penalties for the possession of cannabis or decriminalizing cannabis possession entirely. In fact, more than 50 localities in a dozen states have passed municipal laws or resolutions relating to decriminalization, and it’s largely due to the determination of local advocates. If you want to help lead your town toward a more cannabis-friendly tomorrow but don’t know where to start, check out this article detailing six ways to advocate for a pro-cannabis local government.

Advocate for legalization in your state

If cannabis use is illegal in your state (or it’s only legal for medical sales), know that there are actions you can take that could potentially help rewrite your state’s cannabis laws. If you’re up for the challenge, check out this guide.

Support the American Legion

Over the past few years, the American Legion has been campaigning to help veterans gain access to medical cannabis. And thanks in no small part to the organization’s institutional voice, stellar reputation, and more than two million members, all the Legion’s hard work is paying off.

The Legion released their first medical cannabis-related resolution—which called for the removal of cannabis from Schedule I and advocated for reclassifying it as a drug with potential medical value—at their annual convention in August 2016. Later that same year, leaders from the organization met with Trump’s transition team, where they urged the Trump administration to reschedule cannabis for the sake of our veterans. And the Legion didn’t stop there.

Related

How the American Legion Became a Medical Cannabis Advocate

As we mentioned earlier, the organization conducted their own nationwide cannabis survey of veterans and their caregivers in 2017. Also in 2017, the Legion (along with other veterans groups) pushed the Veterans Administration to issue a directive that allows VA doctors to discuss medical cannabis use with veterans in states where it’s legal. You can help the American Legion achieve even more cannabis victories for veterans by urging congress to prioritize medical cannabis research.

Vote for cannabis-friendly representatives

It’s important to know where your state representatives stand on legalizing the plant. Head over to NORML and check out their House of Representatives Scorecard to find out just how cannabis-friendly (or unfriendly) your state representatives are.

Elizabeth Enochs's Bio Image

Elizabeth Enochs

Elizabeth Enochs is a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist from a small town in Missouri that you've probably never heard of. Liz writes about everything from cannabis culture to animal welfare. You can read more of her work over at The Green Plate, Bustle, Girlboss, The Dodo, Mercy For Animals, and a few others.

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  • Storm Crow

    “Results: Greater than 75% reduction in CAPS symptom scores were reported when patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not.” From “PTSD Symptom Reports of Patients Evaluated for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program” (tandfonline – 2014).

  • FROM ONE BOOMER VET TO ANOTHER & THEIR ADULT CHILDREN

    *You may think using anything as an “aid” in life, somehow makes it an invalid or
    un-necessary experience…
    OK, what aid are we talking about? Marijuana, my glasses, my hearing aid, my meds that aid me with diabetes, cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, anti-inflammatory, headache, thyroid, antibiotics, depression, sleep, stress, allergies, colds, viruses, vitamins. I could go on with the list but first I would like to know what aid do I stop taking to make my life work better? Which one of the above aids come without a warning on the label? Prescribed or over-the-counter? None! They all have warning labels. ibuprofen has more warnings and long term negative effects than pot does…
    Pot, makes my life work better! I mean, why take all the other meds just to live a defeated life and then die? All the meds I take keep my body functioning well at 71…
    Pot gives me the passion for life and motivation to be able to enjoy my good health. It’s what gets me up each day with excitement and great expectations because I know it’s going to be a great day with motivation! Ya gotta keep movin or nature will begin the “death spiral” sequence. …just sayin!
    The dilemma… I know, at 71, for some, movement of any kind can be painful. It’s no wonder why older folks can’t get motivated to do the very things that create better health and longevity… it hurts!
    It hurts while you walk, shop or play with the grandkids. Now, you have to recover. Then you have to try and sleep thru the night. Then you have to get up the next day and do it all again. Or, sit in a chair for a few days just to get mentally prepared to go thru the hours of pain and insomnia caused by pain. This is where pain pills might be considered. Now you are faced with possible addition, chronic constipation, immobility, boredom and depression which will be remedied with more pills.
    I use pot for the two things that take care of everything else… it gives me a sense of well being and the motivation that it brings.
    At this point, I don’t think about the pain enough to stop me from “living” while I’m alive. It makes me want to live a better lifestyle.
    I had prepared to die of ill health with no hope at 63. I now plan on living till I’m 100+ because it’s something to look forward to
    now. Remember the feeling as a child when you woke up and morning smiled…
    Just smoking grass isn’t like any other “stand alone” experience if you know what to do with it and use the right strain of pot to get the right results. After smoking pot for 50+ years I’ve learned just how diversified cannabis is. When you consider sativa, indica and hybrids you’re looking at several hundred different strains and new hybrids coming out everyday. You learn what strain can make you anxious, and which one is the opposite with it’s relaxing, sleepy, couch lock, hungry effects. If you don’t want to get the munchies and couch lock don’t use pure Indica. If you don’t want to be edgy or shaky like an energy drink or too much coffee, don’t use pure Sativa.
    If CBD’s are important to you, just remember, The sense of well being and motivation comes from THC. To me, THC is much more important for your frame of mind, “plus” aid’s in pain.
    My wife and I tried CBD cannabis with no noticeable effect or benefit… doesn’t mean it won’t work for others. There are strains that contain both.
    Hybrids find the sweet spot for each individuals desired effect. Don’t get me wrong, pure Indica and pure Sativa are very desirable… I just don’t
    recommend either for new users. If you don’t know what to expect and are determined to try pot, go with a recommended Hybrid first…
    one toke at a time, keeps you from, one toke over the line!
    Important note: To accurately evaluate an individuals first experience with cannabis, you must not drink alcohol during this time. Alcohol will all but guarantee a bad experience. No other meds either, i.e.; aspirin, cold med, allergy med. No coffee, no energy drink. Don’t try if depressed, emotional or alone. These are the same precautions I would give to a first time driver of a car.
    Find out what hybrid is tailor-made for you and your relationship. You may even want to use several different strains for different effects as I do. Between the weather, news, your “to do list” and everyday stresses, you find that your moods or needs can change at different times of the day. I personally have several strains (10 to 12) at the ready at all times. Why? I don’t ever want another bad day!
    If I can prevent a bad day… why shouldn’t I, why wouldn’t I, why couldn’t I, why can’t I?
    Now, I have a “say” in what I’m going through at the time. If my Lady or I don’t want to be a “mood’s victim”, we can change the mood with one of the 12 strains that allow us to pick the direction we want to go in for the rest of the day or evening. Being dialed in with your spouse/partner at the end of the day is exactly where I want to be.
    No man made drug can do that. In my opinion, pot in a very positive way, can change your life, your marriage, your sex life, your health, your negativity and anger issues. It’s great for just being happy with a genuine sense of well being.
    For me, it’s just a healthier, happier and better way of life. Please don’t think I’m trying to encourage anyone to take any substance they don’t consider necessary. Remember, I’ve been using pot for over 50 years, for everything. So naturally, as a healthy 71 year old, it’s hard for me to see or understand how people, even today, freak out over the use of pot.
    Please note my opinion: Anyone thinking of using cannabis as a lifestyle should first educate themselves with a “personal feasibility study”. First, are you ADD? (A Non-ADD person may not understand any of this and certainly wouldn’t need to consider this as a life style but would use it more for recreation) Are you free to come and go as you please everyday? Are you retired or well off? Do you or your partner know anything about pot and the effects of hundreds of different strains and combinations of pot? How does pot effect you and your partner as individuals and jointly in a relationship. Depending on your age, what do you want from pot? Pot is the only substance on earth that can “partner” with you and enhance whatever direction or experience you choose to go with. At least for me.
    I went to a 30 day, in-house alcohol treatment facility which nationally they had a cure rate of only 17% (National Average). After, I was sober for one year. I celebrated this milestone of achievement with two bottles of Champaign. I started drinking again the next day and everyday after. That’s when I consciously chose pot to quit drinking because my drinking was out of control again. I even drove in black-out. It scared me to death. Since I stopped drinking and started using pot. I have not driven drunk in over ten years, where it used to be daily.
    I’ve gotten my diabetes to goal, high blood pressure is gone, heart palpitations are gone, cholesterol at goal, lost 50 pounds without going on a diet… thanks Sativa! I feel and look 20 years younger and getting younger everyday! Stress and anger are a thing of the past and the family loves it. I no longer have chronic insomnia.
    I was a very unhappy, walking dead man before changing my life style.
    My life is fun again. I start everyday using pot. I take it like a medical regimen. I have 2 to 3 tokes every 3.5 to 4 hours all through the day…everyday and have for years. I don’t get baked or very stoned. Like any meds, you can’t over/under dose and expect proper results. For me, pot is a med, to be taken correctly.
    Selecting the correct strain is also critical. For me, a hybrid pot strain of 70 % sativa, with 30% indica is the way I start my day. I call it “get off your ass grass”.
    NOTE:, I’ve had to change the name to… get off your duff, stuff”. ( My lovely wife has brought it to my attention that, I no longer have an ass! ) Thanks for the update, Sweetheart!
    It keeps me active and in good spirits… It makes you feel young again! I never use indica till night, makes me feel lazy and sleepy all day, even depressed. I don’t use pot for recreation because I’m already in recreation mode all day, everyday. Like I said it’s a lifestyle change.
    I could triple the dose of any of the many meds I take daily and wind up in the hospital or dead. I could triple or quadruple my intake of pot and it
    wouldn’t do much more than put me to sleep, make me eat, dance, laugh, brainstorm or just trip. The benefits in the proper use of pot should not
    get mixed in with what people are doing to get it illegally.
    I am the most positive minded, focused, happiest, nicest and full of great expectations for the day ahead. I’m that way all day everyday as long as I use grass. I use it for pain relief, Insomnia, brain storming new ideas and much more.
    Why should I wait till “week-end recreation” to enjoy all the attributes and benefits?
    Of course at 71 and retired with a med pot grower license, it’s easy for me to live this life style. My lady is a baby boomer as well.
    Like us, most older folks have a lot of issues similar to ours. I finally got my lady to get on the same pot regimen as me because she no longer works, plus it’s legal now. She is experiencing the same benefits as me. She’s lost 50 pounds as well. She has stopped using prescribed Oxycodone for pain! (chronic regional pain syndrome). Pot just prevented another person from the horrible effects of prescribed Oxy addiction and saved me from alcohol addition.
    We’re like peas and carrots again! Seriously, our relationship is like it was approx.. 28 years ago. We got our groove back! We still have great fun and lots of love in our great relationship.
    That, will take us the rest of the way.
    Like I said, weed is absolutely unique. It can deliver what you seek. Be it physical, emotional, sexual, self revelations, pain relief, mood altering,
    artistic, focus, temperament enhancer, just having fun, a happier lifestyle, well being, brain storming new ideas with focus and passion. What can you do with all these features and benefit’s? I can live a longer, healthier life with fewer or no major organ or cancer issues.
    Why do I think this? Simple deduction. I have friends that have gone through cancer treatment and beat it! They starved the cancer and it left their body. One of the key counseling issues through out the entire treatment was absolutely no stress, worry, anxiety, anger or thinking anything that would trigger any of these emotions… ever! Which is debatably the very thing that caused the cancer in the first place.
    Cancer feeds off all negative emotions that produce heavy stress loads on different organs of the body. We all know how heavy that weight can become after years of unresolved issues. In my opinion, pot is tailor made for cancer patients as well as a proactive, pre-cancer med for high stress, worry, anxiety, anger or thinking anything that would trigger any of these emotions.
    I personally chose not to wait till I get a major organ breakdown or cancer to go on a pot regimen. Being proactive in the elimination of negative
    thoughts and lifestyle, make it possible to enjoy a healthier one. If you are older… positive, emotional, physical and recreational motivation is
    the key to enjoying a longer, healthier life! If you can’t enjoy your life when your healthy, what’s the point to a longer life?
    It seems like the logical proactive thing to do. I’ve asked four doctors this same question- if pot took away anxiety, anger or thinking anything
    that would trigger any negative emotions, could you live longer and healthier? They all said absolutely yes!
    They also added… stress can cause any major health problems in anyone no matter how healthy they are.
    Unchecked stress will not only kill you but it will also destroy your life years before you die. Personally speaking, I don’t want to be miserable and unhappy with no motivation. The right strain with proper amounts of THC is what can prevent negativity, depression, stress, boredom, anger,
    and isolation by changing your mindset, temperament and attitude’s.
    Cannabis CBD only… cannot! It does other great things!
    These are all excellent reasons why Vets should be prescribed free pot!

  • L C

    I am a spouse of a disabled army veteran who suffers from PTSD, anxiety and chronic pain and this is just some of our story……
    My husband served a full term in the Army reserves and was discharged honorably in 1992. He then went back in in 2000 at the age of 33 and was sent back to basic training because he had been out for so long. He went to AIT and finished as Distinguished Honor Graduate in his class. He was stationed in Germany and was deployed to Iraq in 2002, he was one of the first ones in the country as he was in a Signal Unit. In 2005, he was medically discharged due to chronic back pain. He was not diagnosed with the PTSD and anxiety before he got out because the mental health doctor advised him not to put that on his record. When we got back to the states we had to fight for several years to get the VA to rate him, in the mean time we lost almost everything we had worked for. He was seen by the VA doctors and they finally made the diagnosis of PTSD, agoraphobic, and anxiety. They put him on a cocktail of meds that did not work for him and made him worse. I was very afraid for him and the hopelessness and despair I saw him fall into. He had heard of medical marijuana helping with anxiety and PTSD and during a vacation to Colorado he tried using marijuana. It was a game changer for him and our life. He was able to get off the pills and started getting better and his symptoms were more manageable.
    We live in a state where at the time it was illegal to use marijuana and even though it was approved almost 2 years ago, he still does not have access to it due to legal battles in our state.
    In March of this year police came to our home with a warrant for electronic equipment, we have a 25 year old Autistic son who lives with us and he had accidently downloaded questionable material. He never knew he had done anything wrong but it brought the police to our home. They were in our home for hours and then started searching other parts of our property. We have another small house on our property and they went in and found marijuana growing in the house. I didn’t know about this as my husband had kept it from me, but he was growing his own so he could medicate himself and not keep taking chances with having to get it off the street and not know if someone had put anything else in it. He was arrested and charged with several felonies and the state is going after our home under civil forfeiture. We are now faced with all these charges and losing our home for something that was helping my husband get better! He went to court this week and the prosecutor offered him a deal, If we paid 20 thousand they wouldn’t take our home or ask for jail time and he could go into Veterans court and if he completed it then the felony charge would fall off and not be recorded. This is just so wrong in so many ways, If he takes the deal he will not be allowed to medicate himself, which is the only thing that has helped him. If he doesn’t take it, they will go after our house and he could get jail time and a felony with no chance of ever getting it off his record. This is all just so wrong! My husband has fought for so much over the last 15 years. He has fought for his country, fought for his benefits, and is now fighting all this.
    I’m not even sure why I am writing this letter but I have been fighting along side him for 28 years and I will continue to fight for and with him. I just pray that these unfair and unjust laws get overturned and all veterans have access to medicine without fear of the repercussions. If you believe in prayer please pray for my husband and our family and all veterans fighting battles out here.

  • shipdog7

    I started taking a 1800 mg tincture bottle CBD Oil (no THC) back around nine months ago. It has really helped me with back pain. Pain as in DDD. Degenerative Disk Disease. I have had the pain for probably about 12 years now. Each year getting worse. I applied and receive a 40% discount as a VET on a website. With proof of course sent in. As in DD 214 or VA ID card. If you want to try it…look it up. Starts with L & ends with S. I just got an update email stating they increased it to 60% as of today. 12-17-18. What a blessing. Might not work for everyone. Works for me.