VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD

VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD

BARBARA TAYLOR - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
BARBARA TAYLOR – ARMY

I entered the Army in 1991 to support my two children after going through a divorce. Although I had a degree in Accounting/Business Administration, I joined the Army specifically for medical training and was a 91 Delta – Certified Surgical Tech, 16th MASH. Although I was ready to go, I was never deployed. When I arrived at my new unit in Ft. Riley, KS, they had just returned from supporting an engineering mission in Bolivia. Our equipment had to go to the paint shop and didn’t return in time to make it onto the planes, so we stayed behind. I was active duty from 1991-1994, and was on inactive duty from 1994-1999. Unfortunately, I had to get out early because I came down on orders for Germany, however, my son had just been born eight weeks premature and was in an NICU. He wouldn’t have survived the flight, so I was honorably released on family hardship.

I had used cannabis recreationally in college years before joining the military and smoked from time to time, but did not become a regular user again until I needed cannabis for medical reasons in 2009. I was involved in a major auto accident in 1998 while sitting at a stop light on my way home from work. I was working as a CST at a major hospital in Idaho then. My sons had a little league game, so I was on my way to pick them up from daycare when I was rear ended and pushed three feet forward into another car. The results of this accident have been five back surgeries, including a spinal fusion in my lower back. My son was actually the one who convinced me to try cannabis instead of the many pain pills that did not seem to work.

I began using cannabis regularly in 2009. Due to my injuries, I have MRI’s at least every three years. In 2009, while being on opiates and just starting cannabis, doctors continued to see degeneration. In 2012, while I used mainly cannabis and low amounts of opiates, they saw no further degeneration. Now in 2015, I only using marijuana and no opiates, doctors are seeing improvement for the first time in 17 years. I planned to open my own edibles company called Ohana Mama’s Confections, but up until recently I lived in Eastern Oregon where they have implemented bans on in industrial growing, processing, testing and selling. I have since moved to Eugene where I can lend a helping hand to the cannabis community. Cannabis has changed quite literally saved my life and if I can get through to one person who is in a place I used to be in and help them, then it’s all been worth it.

TYLER D - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
TYLER D. – MARINE CORPS

I was in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years beginning in 2008 and then honorably discharging in 2012. Becoming a Marine seemed like an incredible challenge that offered experiences I couldn’t find elsewhere. I was an Assaultman; my occupational expertise focused on high explosives, rocket launchers, and breaching obstacles. While in the Marines, I went on two tours, both to the Helmand Province in Afghanistan. I went to the Nawa District in 2010 and the Garmsir District in 2011.

Prior to the military, I was a recreational cannabis user. Now, I am heavily involved in the industry. I am a security operator tasked with the security of the product, personnel, and patrons of marijuana establishments. I just consider cannabis a superior alternative to alcohol. It allows me to unwind without heavy impairment, or being too hung-over to function the next day.

I am fortunate enough to live in Colorado where it is extremely easy to obtain cannabis and I completely avoid the VA entirely. I wish those who opposed cannabis would do their research. It’s helping millions of people with their ailments with little to no side effects. You can’t overdose on it, nor is there the propensity towards violence like alcohol. Give it a try!

ZACHARY - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
ZACHARY T. – MARINE CORPS

I joined the military because I needed to serve our country after the attacks on the World Trade Center. At the time, I was a sophomore in high school and the war was really heating up. I believed it was my responsibility to defend our nation to the best of my abilities to hopefully thwart any kind of attack on American soil again. I did two combat tours; one to the Kandahar province in Afghanistan and one to the Haditha Triad in Iraq. I was in a little city affectionately known as the Haq.

While serving from June 2004 – June 2008, I was an infantryman 0311 (the military designation for my job). I had never used cannabis before joining the Marines. In fact, I did not use cannabis for a year or so after getting out. I use cannabis to help calm my PTSD and mood stabilization. Cannabis helps me withhold reactions in situations where anger tends to be the response. It also has been a blessing for injuries I have from being in a grenade explosion. I have nerve damage in my left foot and leg it helps significantly when the pain from the injuries gets aggravated.

The biggest problem I have faced as a Vet is that cannabis is still frowned on by the VA and government. Getting a medical card could result in losing benefits. Right now, in our country, we have 22 Veteran suicides a day. If Vets were allowed to combat their PTSD with cannabis I believe this number would be different. Vets are fighters if you give them the tools and the means they always come out on top.

TOM MORTON - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
TOM MORTON – MARINE CORPS

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
-Edmund Burke

That quote always resonated very heavily with me and played off of my lifelong urge to serve and protect my country. I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in January 2009. I was an Infantry Squad Leader. It was my job to plan, lead, and debrief combat patrols in southern Afghanistan in order to locate Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s), pursue the Taliban, conduct marketplace security patrols, and aid local nationals with assessing and scheduling public works projects such as building bridges
and schools.

I went on two combat deployments to Afghanistan and a Jungle Warfare training deployment to Okinawa, Japan. All were seven months long, and I would have much rather gone back to Afghanistan than to Okinawa. Everything in the jungle wants to kill you, even the plants. At least in Afghanistan it’s mostly only people that are deadly. I was honorably discharged in January 2014.

Pre-Marine Corps, I used cannabis recreationally. Cannabis helps greatly with things like joint pain, sleep issues, and public anxiety (especially in crowds). All of which are major issues for a lot of Vets, especially those with combat experience. I currently work for a security company that works heavily in the cannabis industry, protecting employees and customers from potential robberies or any other threat that may walk through the door of a dispensary or grow house. As a security guard, unfortunately having cannabis in my system is too high of a liability in the event of something like a shooting occurring, so I can no longer partake in it.

A message to those who oppose cannabis: Stop standing on outdated misconceptions of what a gateway drug it is or how harmful it could be. Instead, look at the factual data of overdose decreases and the decline of prescription drug abuse in the states that have legalized it. Also, simply look at the behavior of a drunken person versus someone under the influence of marijuana. The drunk person will be far more erratic, emotionally unpredictable and more prone to violence. A person who is high on marijuana will be far more likely to simply be spacey, giggly, and a bit lethargic. Aside from the massively greater negative physical side effects of alcohol, the behavioral effects are also clearly more detrimental. That’s just alcohol, which is legal, but doesn’t even come close to how harmful most street drugs like meth, crack, heroin or cocaine are.

THOMAS A CASHMAN - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
THOMAS A. CASHMAN – ARMY/NATIONAL GAURD

I enlisted twice, once in 1989 and again in 2004. When I enlisted the first time, in 1989, it was a combination of things. Both of my parents are Vets, and my older brother also served. I felt like everyone should do something to serve his or her country. I went back in in 2004, because of the Global War On Terror (GWOT). Not because of the war, precisely, but I felt like with my experience, age and outlook I could affect some positive outcomes in my fellow soldiers. I did four overseas combat tours: Desert Storm, Southern Watch and then two GWOT Tours. Both of those were in Iraq.

Prior to Desert Storm I was stationed in Germany and my unit (1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division) got called up to go just after thanksgiving 1991, and by New Years were in Saudi Arabia. After returning to Germany, I was reassigned to 1st Cavalry Division at Ft Hood, Texas. Ironically, I arrived my new unit just in time to go to Kuwait in support of Operation Southern Watch where were tasked with providing interim security and helping to train the Kuwaiti Army. I chose not to re-enlist.

My break in service years, 1993-2004, was tough. I drank a lot. I went through a lot of jobs, and I got a DUI in 1998 that snowballed into other legal troubles because of missed court dates, inability to pay fines, etc. In October of 2004, after a bit of a paperwork fight, I enlisted into the Oregon Army National Guard and volunteered to go to Baghdad as a ‘replacement’. In 2008, I was when I was diagnosed with PTSD and got pulled off the deployment roster.

I have a total of 17 years in the military. Ten of those years were spent as ‘active duty’, the rest as some form or other of ‘reservist’. I was honorably discharged in December 2013 at the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-6).

Sleep is probably the biggest way that cannabis helps me. It’s really nice that if I only need a little help getting to sleep, I use just a little and I sleep. If I need a lot of help sleeping, I use some concentrate, or edibles and a higher dose. The best part of that is that it has never failed me. I’ve been known to be prone to thrill-seeking behavior that can be destructive, and cannabis certainly curtails that. I volunteer for Grow for Vets whenever I get the chance and I am a full time, 3rd year student at the Art Institute of Portland, where I study industrial design. Recently, my colleague and classmate Jeni Lee and I started www.cannabuzzmedia.com, which we hope to grow into a content manager and provider of consultancy for the cannabis industry. I live in Oregon where both medical and recreational cannabis are legal, so my biggest problem is paying for it. It’s not that expensive, really. I spend more every month on coffee than I do on cannabis. For those that want to hold onto that canna-bigotry – eventually, hopefully, they will catch on and take notice of what a versatile and useful thing cannabis can be.

AARON NEWSOM - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
AARON NEWSOM – MARINE CORPS

I enlisted in the military after 9/11 in 2002, and was in the U.S. Marine Corps until I was honorably discharged in 2008. I went on one deployment to Afghanistan in 2004-2005. I specialized in Expeditionary Aircraft Recovery and mostly I worked with attack helicopters on forward operating bases.

I used cannabis recreationally before entering the military. When I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2006, along with stress, anxiety, and migraine headaches I began using marijuana for medical purposes. Cannabis helps calm my anxiety and stress. It allows me to focus and be more present. I also believe that cannabis helps me to be a more compassionate person, and a better husband and father.

I am the Co-Founder and COO of the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. I am also a patient and advocate for Veterans and cannabis. We provide qualified California Military Veterans with top quality lab tested medical cannabis grown by fellow United States Military Veterans. We honor our veterans with our Veteran Compassion Program. Thankfully I haven’t experienced problems accessing cannabis since I grow it and have safe access to it; however, that is more that I can say some!

We live in the land of the free, that is why we love this country and why we choose to fight for this country and the freedoms it represents. We believe that we should have the rights to medicate with cannabis as a safer alternative to opiates, SSRI’s and other pharmaceuticals that are handed out like candy by the VA. We want to convey to the community that we are good, responsible, and active members of society.

CORY LARIVEE - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
CORI LARIVEE – ARMY/NATIONAL GAURD

I enlisted in 1999, when I was 17 years old. I wanted to go to college and knew it was the only way to pay for it. So my mom signed a waiver and away I went. I am currently
still enlisted.

I have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan on multiple deployments and have an been a Track Vehicle Mechanic, Recovery Vehicle Operator, Personal Security for VIP, Combat Engineer, Operations Command and Control and Financial Management.

I was a recreational user of cannabis before entering in the military and use cannabis for PTSD, sleep aid, chronic joint & body pain and anxiety. I currently am involved with Grow for Vets in Oregon. I think having the option to treat holistically and naturally should be afforded to everyone. I would rather treat with cannabis than with all the various narcotic pain killers or PTSD drugs they have treated me with in the past.

I have inquired about cannabis with the VA on multiple occasions and have been told that they do not endorse it and will not talk about it as a viable treatment option. This came from both my primary care physician and my psychiatrist. I wish the naysayers would not pay attention to the negative stigma surrounding the medicine. They should try it on their own and then make an informed and enlightened decision. Allow those whose ailments it helps to use the medicine. It’s natural and holistic. Pharmaceutical companies make millions a year off the VA and injured Veterans. Why not give a naturally occurring plant a shot for the love of god modern medicine stems from the scientific study of naturalistic medicines (healing that has been practiced for thousands of years) from all over the world. We’ve examined and synthesized Aloe Vera plants to treat sunburns. I still have an actual plant that sits in my windowsill. I personally prefer the natural medicine and like knowing and seeing the plant grow and produce its healing aloe and use it myself when I need it. This is just me though, in my time in the military I have done enough destroying and destruction, it’s time for me to embrace and enjoy the life of it.

JASON SWEATT - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
JASON SWEATT – ARMY

I enlisted in the military in 1996, because I looking for a new adventure and a way out of Alabama. I was a Staff Sergeant and did mostly Convoy Operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF 2) from ’04-‘05 in Baghdad, Iraq.

When I was honorably discharged in 2006, I was living in Hawaii. I started using cannabis again for some combat related issues soon after being released. I obtained my Hawaii state medical marijuana card though there was nowhere to get it except off the black market. I moved to California in 2008, and it was like I won the lottery. I was a recreational pre-military I now use it for pain management and anxiety. I am heavily involved in the cannabis movement. I am the Director of Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, a cannabis gardener
and advocate.

I was open with my primary care physician at the VA. I disclosed to them why I used cannabis and never had any repercussions in doing so. The same cannot be said for Veterans living in a state that does not recognize medical cannabis. A Veteran could lose their VA benefits if they disclose to their doctor that they use medical cannabis. That is precisely why we are trying to spread awareness through the Veteran community. There is a big suicide epidemic involving Veterans in our country and we feel that its directly caused by the prescription medicine (SSRIs, benzodiazepine, psychotropics, etc.) that the VA prescribes. They will not prescribe cannabis. I plead to the naysayers: Get educated before you make a decision about medical cannabis!

KORI WARD - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
KORI WARD – ARMY

I enlisted in the Army in 2000, to get out of a small town and to get away from my mother’s strict rules – oh, the irony, I went into something with even stricter rules and regulations. I medically retired after 14 years in September of 2015. I have been on two tours. I first went to Uzbekistan in November of 2002, and then before the Iraqi war began, we were moved to the border of Jordan and Iraq in February 2003. My second tour was to Qatar. When I first enlisted I was in Mortuary Affairs, which means I bagged and tagged soldiers. I had no problem dealing with the handling or care of our fallen Soldiers until about two years ago when I started to show signs of PTSD from my past military work experience.

Before entering the Army, I probably smoked once or twice with some friends recreationally. It wasn’t until the PTSD symptoms began that I turned to cannabis. I left the military due to PTSD, Anxiety, Major Depression Disorder and alcohol abuse. I recently moved to Colorado at the beginning of October, so that I could find a more natural way to control my disorders. Since I have lived in Colorado, I began smoking and noticed that I do not have to rely on my medication as much as I used too. My nightmares are less frequent and my anxiety has decreased as well.

Now, I have my MMOC and am looking to begin working in the industry.

The military pumps us full of medication. I take depression medication and it causes my anxiety to worsen, so I have take benzodiazepine on top of sleep medication at night. I’m still nervous to completely get off the depression pills; however, I have began to slowly ween myself off them. I have yet to deal with the VA just yet, but I have heard horror stories from some fellow Vets. I have heard that once they mark your file as a cannabis user you can not get your regular medication from the VA since they are unsure of the reaction between pharmaceuticals and marijuana when taken together. People need to educate themselves about cannabis; I’m still trying to educate my mother who called me a “junkie weeder”. People still don’t see it as a medicine. If you do the research you will see that cannabis has helped people live a functioning life and they aren’t “junkie weeders.”

ROGER B MARTIN - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
ROGER B. MARTIN – ARMY

My family has an extensive military history, so I enlisted in the United States Army in 1973, and was honorably discharged in 1976. I was never a cannabis user prior to being in the military. Now I use edibles at night to deal with chronic pain in order to be able to sleep. I am blessed to live in a state where cannabis is legal and that I am able to afford and obtain it.

I have been very open with the VA about my involvement with cannabis. Two years ago, I launched Grow for Vets, and for the first few months that followed, every VA health care provider that I gave a business card to quickly handed it back to me. Over that past six months, every healthcare provider I have dealt with has accepted my card and most actually engaged me in conversation about cannabis and its use in treatment of medical conditions. Grow for Vets is an organization aiming to help reduce the staggering number of Veterans who die each day from suicide and prescription drug overdose. We provide Veterans with the knowledge and resources necessary to obtain or grow their own cannabis for treatment of their medical conditions. Here’s a question for cannabis naysayers: Why are you okay with more than 50 Veterans a day dying from deadly prescription drugs when cannabis is a safe alternative?

CORWIN B - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
CORWIN B. – ARMY

I come from a long line of military Veterans, both American and German. I enlisted after graduating from Oregon State University in 1998 and was honorably discharged in 2012. I felt it was my duty to volunteer and serve my country. I started my career in the Infantry, then volunteered for Special Operations soon after. Lastly, I was placed behind a desk; as I chose a field in computers.

I had never even considered cannabis before or after the military. My wife introduced me to her friend’s family, who are growers, and I began educating myself on cannabis before partaking. Once I decided to try cannabis, I didn’t look back. It has changed my life for the better. Prior to consuming my first medible, I had sleep issues that dated back well over a decade. I had a bad parachute accident while in Special Operations, which damaged my lower back, and have had poor sleep since then – add in other injuries, sleep deprivation, etc., it takes a toll on your body. Cannabis Oil was the most effective for me personally, but now I eat cannabis paste or as I call it, cannabis caviar. I can accurately measure my dosage, and it is in my system fast, effectively, and lasts up to 12 hours.

I do not smoke cannabis because you only receive 1% of the medicine. I cannot imagine my life without cannabis. Hence, why I share my experiences openly with other Veterans who suffer with day-to-day pain. I initially got involved with Grow for Vets because I have a friend who is slowly dying in Denver. Once I started conversing with Roger Martin, Founder and Executive Director of Grow for Vets, I decided that Oregon Veterans needed that form of help as an option. Being involved in Grow for Vets gives me the opportunity to help other Veterans. Our Grow for Vets events allow Veterans to come in, receive a gift bag with a mix of edible cannabis products, giving them an alternative to the toxic cocktails of prescription drugs. Hearing their stories, how cannabis has helped them, is my inspiration to continue down this path as the Grow for Vets Oregon Chapter President.

I am very fortunate. My grower friends are very knowledgeable about cannabis. They steered me in the right direction to obtain my medical card. My challenge now is continuing education about the positive effects of cannabis, how to obtain a medical card, or simply how to grow their own medicine. Those of us, who have the knowledge and access to this information about cannabis, have an obligation to ensure others have the same knowledge and access. My mother was a nurse for years, so growing up she always warned me about “marijuana.” Once I became more educated about cannabis and was using the medicine, it was time to persuade my mother to learn more about it. Sanjay Gupta’s “Why I changed my mind on Weed,” “Weed 2” and “Weed 3” series specials on CNN were helpful in enlightening her. I know it will take time to fight the stigma surrounding cannabis; there is 75 plus years of anti-cannabis propaganda brainwashing the world. The war on drugs was an utter failure on all levels. The $17 trillion dollars spent fighting the war on drugs, quite literally could have paid off our national debt!

TANGY - VETERANS THAT USE CANNABIS FOR PTSD
TANGY – MARINE CORPS

I enlisted in the military in 2003, because I was honestly just trying to pay for school. I was a cheerleader who had no idea what life in the military was like, but when I got accepted to all these schools my dad told me to at least think about it. Since he’s a Air Force Veteran, and because I’m the ultimate daddy’s girl I said “ok”. I was fortunate enough to survive two tours in Iraq during my enlistment. I was stationed in Tal Afar, and I did convoys to Fallujah, Blue Diamond, and Ramadi back in 2005. I was honorably discharged in 2007.

In the military my official title was Warehouse Clerk, which is basically Logistics in the regular world. I was in charge of tracking, shipping, and receiving all military supplies to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting the right gear to the right unit can literally be the difference between life and death for some of those service members. While in Iraq, I dispersed gear throughout country and because I was Hazardous Material certified those shipments require special labeling, so that became my responsibility too. I have shipped and controlled not only millions of dollars worth of assets, but I also worked for base Air Traffic Control so that definitely included military personnel as well.

Prior to the military, I was NOT a cannabis consumer and was actually scared of it because I listened to D.A.R.E, so I thought it was a drug like Heroin. When I tried it at 16 I choked really bad, so I didn’t try it again until I was about 23. I was actually that person that would make my friends go in another room away from me if they wanted to smoke. Post-military, I use cannabis for insomnia because at one point my nightmares used to make me afraid to fall asleep. I also use it to treat my PTSD, chronic neck and back pain and anxiety. Honestly, I also just enjoy life more after using it as for as conversation, laughter, sex, food, music, etc. is concerned.

I am 100% involved in the industry first and foremost as a patient, but most importantly I’m the CEO/Founder of the cannabis brand Jayn Grene. I’m also a cannabis activist, model, and vlogger. I do daily Periscopes as the “Cannabis Industry Insider”, and I travel as a cannabis speaker all over the country. The problems I have faced while trying to obtain cannabis as a Vet are trying to find consistent quality medicine and finding ways to financially obtain it. Cannabis can be an expensive addition to an already tight budget, but this is my medicine and it truly helps me so I have to find a way to make sure I continually have it. I am very honest with my VA caretakers about my cannabis use, and it helps that I’m protected as a medical patient under Prop 215. I tell them that the medication that they prescribe is too strong and that I prefer the happiness from cannabis as opposed to the zombie-like comatose behavior on heavy narcotics. I still use the prescribed medicine on really dark days, but for the most part my relief comes from cannabis.

I would challenge cannabis naysayers to honestly do their own research on the cannabis plant to learn the truth themselves. I recognize that we have been fed years and years of lies, so we won’t wake people up over night, but I would tell them to solely focus on truth and facts. I would ask them if consuming cannabis saved the life of ONE of the 22 veterans that committed suicide a day is it not worth the effort to give it a chance? It helps me sleep at night knowing without a shadow of doubt that I’m on the right side, so I think they are going to come around in the next few years anyway.

MR MARY JANE - USING CANNABIS FOR PTSD
MR. MARY JANE – PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTOR

I am not a Veteran, I was a Private Military Contractor for 14 years, but I do experience the same symptoms as Vets when ending our careers. We are hired by government agencies like the CIA or Department of Defense to perform a broad range of duties including patrol, personal protection detail (PPD) of VIPs, corporate security and escort operations. We are often hired by the government to supplement and/or train the military personnel overseas. I have spent time in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and Israel.

I was recruited by a family member who had retired from a government agency and started a private military company. I attended boot camp style training, much like military training and was given my first assignment overseas. It was an honor to serve alongside the brave men and women of the U.S. military. As a private contractor, I had much more flexibility than my friends who were enlisted. I had the ability to choose my assignments and my team. My assignments could be as short as 90 days while most soldiers are deployed for 6-12 months.

Unfortunately, there is a common misconception about Private Contractors being a bunch of cowboys who do not have to adhere to any rules of engagement. The fact is, that we are highly trained and have to be accountable for our actions. The guidelines are clear, we are only authorized to use force if attacked.

I use cannabis to help ease symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and insomnia. Prior to my career as a Private Contractor, I was a recreational user of cannabis in high school and college, but I was required to abstain from cannabis use due to regular drug testing. Now, I am a patient and co-founder of Miss Mary Jane’s Edibles in Southern California. Medicinal cannabis saved my life and has enabled me to have a normal life.

Cannabis is widely accepted among former Private Contractors like myself. I talk to many of my former colleagues that use cannabis to treat the issues that many of us bring home after working overseas. For anyone who is vehemently opposed to cannabis, I would ask them to look at cannabis as a medicine rather than a “drug”. Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in our country and cannabis is helping to combat that problem.

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