By Anthony Johnson, National Cannabis Coalition
Our military veterans and their families sacrifice so much and receive little in return. Veterans risk their lives and witness horrors of war, so that we don’t have to. Their families wish these soldiers goodbye to battlefields across the globe, uncertain as to whether they will ever be reunited again. Our soldiers face constant peril to themselves, as well as their fellow soldiers and must face the ugly consequences of war, including the deaths of innocent people. We obviously owe our veterans so much when they return from war and the least that we can do is help ease the mental anguish suffered from experiencing the tragedy of war.
They Mayo Clinic defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as, “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” I can only imagine the horrors of war. After learning more about this condition from Mary Lynn Mathre, President and co-founder of Patients Out of Time, I prefer to drop the “D” and refer to this mental health condition as simply Post Traumatic Stress as it doesn’t seem to me that such a condition is not a disorder after experiencing a traumatic event, such as war, but a natural human reaction to terror that humans simply should not have to endure.
Unfortunately, too many veterans don’t have safe access to cannabis, a nontoxic medicine that can help ease symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. While it was a great development that the Veterans Affairs Administration eased the ban on veterans utilizing cannabis if their state allows medical cannabis, only two states list PTSD. as a qualifying condition. In Arizona, military veterans have launched an effort to include PTSD as a qualifying condition, an effort that needs to be duplicated across the country, so we can assist more soldiers like Emanuel Herrera, featured in a USA Today article on this issue.
The former staff sergeant had enlisted in the Arizona National Guard after 9/11, wanting to help his country. In 2006, while providing security for a convoy near Camp Anaconda in Iraq, his truck hit an improvised bomb. The blast turned the night into day, nearly destroyed his neck, damaged the discs in his back and left him with brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.
Last year, despite warnings from medical staff at the local veterans hospital, he began to smoke pot legally under the state’s new medical-marijuana program to cope with the physical and mental pains of combat.
“My doctors shunned me and didn’t approve of me doing it,” said Herrera, a Purple Heart recipient. “One doctor said I could get some repercussions for doing it. But I did it legally. And I know for a fact – I’m a walking testimonial – that it works.”
Let’s fight for these soldiers after they fight for us. Regardless of your views on war on a particular war, these soldiers don’t choose which wars to wage or hope to leave their families. They fight for us, so we don’t have to experience the horrors of war ourselves. Let’s do our part by helping them cope with what they have experienced, it is the least we can do.
Published with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition