fSANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The New York Times reported Wednesday that pot cultivators are treating military vets with free weed. The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance gives away free medical marijuana to vets every month to help them treat conditions like PTSD and chronic pain.
Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance Provides Marijuana
The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance was founded by military vets Aaron Newsom and Jason Sweatt. Newsom is a former Marine who served in Afghanistan and says that he suffered from PTSD upon returning to the U.S. "When I came home, I couldn't turn things off. I was losing friends, losing jobs," said Newsom.
Sweatt is an Army veteran who served in Iraq. Both Sweatt and Newsom found relief from PTSD with medical marijuana and were prompted to help their fellow brothers-in-arms who were also suffering.
Marijuana can relieve symptoms from PTSD, inflammation, insomnia, and pain. Nick Etten of the Veterans Cannabis Project is an ex-Navy SEAL and medical marijuana advocate. He says that marijuana is safer than prescription drugs traditionally prescribed to vets. "It helps with the Big Three we struggle with after combat. Pain, sleep and anxiety, and it is safer than many medications."
Forty-five thousand people died in the U.S. from opioid overdoses last year, and studies show that states with medical marijuana have a 20 percent lower overdose rate than states without medical marijuana programs.
Survey Says Nearly One Million Vets Medicate with Marijuana
The American Legion is a wartime veterans' organization that supports medical marijuana and has repeatedly requested that Congress reclassify the drug. Marijuana is classified in the same class as heroin and considered illegal under federal law, which prevents medical research on the drug.
Representative Tim Walz (D-MN) says that many veterans have told him how beneficial medical marijuana has been to alleviate their pain. He says that there is an urgent need for more research on the drug, adding that doesn't matter if you are an advocate for marijuana or an opponent. "Either way, you should want the evidence to prove it, and there is no better system to do that research than the V.A.," he said.
Ninety-two percent of veterans support marijuana medical research and almost one million veterans are medicating with medical marijuana despite it being illegal. The giveaway in Santa Cruz was prompted by Newsom and Sweatt partly because of the Department of Veterans' Affairs lack of action in helping vets get the relief they need.
Veterans who need medical marijuana can go to the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance at the Santa Cruz Veterans Memorial Building, 846 Front Street in Santa Cruz on the first Monday of every month. The giveaway begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m.