You may remember a story earlier this summer about Kristoffer Lewandowski, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran that faced life in prison because he was growing cannabis plants inside his Oklahoma home. After having a major PTSD episode, his wife went to a neighbor’s house to call for help – not help for her, but for her husband. Since the ordeal, Kris has moved to California and is doing extremely well. Edibles List had the change to sit down and talk with him. We already know what happened in Oklahoma, now it is time to give Kris a chance to tell his side of the story.
Edibles List: Tell us about being a Marine.
Kristoffer Lewandowski: I joined the U.S. Marine Corps in September 2004. I served with the 11th Marine Regiment Bravo Battery 1st Battalion 11th Marines and Bravo company 1/1, and retired from the Marine Corps Artillery Detachment in Ft. Sill, OK in 2014, after ten years. In layman’s terms: I was an Operation Chief for an Artillery Battery. However, during my first deployment I was in Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Security and I did two years with Bravo Company 1/1, an Infantry unit.
The highest rank I achieved was E-6 Staff Sergeant. I originally enlisted because I was looking to get into law enforcement and at the time a military background gave you a great foot in the door. While in the military, I deployed three times; first was to Iraq in 2006. Next, I was sent to hunt pirates on the open ocean with the Navy in 2009 – there was a movie based on this mission. My last deployment was to Afghanistan in 2010. I was medically retired in 2014 and am 100% disabled due to severe PTSD.
EL: What is your history with cannabis?
Kris: When I was younger I was a heavy recreational user and then I enlisted and quit using marijuana. After being in the Marines, I was diagnosed with PTSD (Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbances of emotion and conduct), so I began using cannabis in lieu of high-powered pharmaceuticals.
EL: How does marijuana help you?
Kris: To put it simply, it allows me to take my kids to Disneyland. When I can’t sleep it allows me to, when I am in pain it calms it, but most of all cannabis allows me to be comfortable when I am not home.
EL: Tell us about what happened in Oklahoma.
Kris: The situation in Oklahoma was a culmination of a lack of options. I was taking copious amounts of opiate prescriptions. I was prescribed 13 pills a day including 60mg of Oxycontin OP (30mg, twice daily) and 30mg of Oxycodone IR (5mg, 6 times a day), I went through terrible withdrawals the first week of my son Jaxon’s life. I knew I needed something different so I tried cannabis, then because of the street cost of marijuana in Oklahoma, I decided to grow my own medicine. I had six cannabis plants and am now looking at life in prison. The main thing about Oklahoma is that I still have a long road ahead of me and am always looking for support.
EL: Since moving to California what have you been doing?
Kris: I am currently in my first semester at Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo. I am majoring in Civil Engineering or Landscape Design with a minor in Horticulture. I would love to be a full time grower and advocate for medical cannabis and PTSD research.
EL: How are you currently involved in the cannabis industry? (Patient, User, Work in the industry?)
Kris: I am very much a patient. My goal is to become so much more! I find the process of growing cannabis to be just as relaxing as ingesting at times.
EL: What problems have you faced as a Vet trying to obtain cannabis?
Kris: Mainly the cost. Good meds are not cheap.
EL: How do you deal with the VA & cannabis?
Kris: I go out of my way to try and make the doctors acknowledge that I am a cannabis patient, that nothing they do or say will stop my use. But most importantly I ask them to understand and research issues with medication they prescribe with my cannabis use.
EL: What would you say to cannabis naysayers or those who are blindly anti-marijuana?
Kris: I do my best to stay away from those individuals, but I usually ask what their concern is and attempt to educate. If not, I laugh because well, that means more meds for those like myself who understand and utilize the benefits of cannabis.
EL: What are some of the things you struggle with when trying to navigate through PTSD?
Kris: Depends on the day. Worst-case scenario, I struggle with leaving the house.
EL: What are some of the misconceptions you would like to see changed about PTSD?
Kris: First, the stigma the PTSD means crazy, overly aggressive, maniac. It is a disease, that is treatable and there is more than one way to treat it and that cannabis is a very real option.
EL: How do people react when they find out you suffer from PTSD?
Kris: Depends, I’ve had warm embraces with “thank you for your service” or “sorry”, but I also get others who automatically think I am crazy and treat me accordingly .
EL: What are some of the things you do to cope with your symptoms outside of cannabis?
Kris: With a lot of hard work and counseling I have identified most of all my personal triggers, I then do my best to avoid those things. For me these things include driving in traffic, any area with large amounts of people, or watching certain movies.
EL: What is some advice you would give to someone who is just coming home from duty or is starting to show signs of PTSD?
Kris: Find your triggers and begin the process of living around them. Most importantly establish your support group now and educate them on living with PTSD, what it is and things it may cause you to do; also know who you can call and will be there via phone or in person at any time. With great people, friends and family around you, your ability to live with PTSD is easier.
Kris is one of the many people countrywide who is still dealing with outrageous legal ramifications surrounding cannabis. In an effort to stop these horrible situations from occurring it is our responsibility as citizens to become aware and go out and vote to change the local cannabis laws.
Kris – Edibles List would like to thank you for your service and taking the time to share your story with us.