Never Forget! Weed for Warriors: Medical Marijuana Access for Veterans
Emily Ann Plizak
November 4, 2022
Federal marijuana prohibition prevents the VA from offering medical cannabis to veterans & onerous state policies prohibit affordable medical marijuana access to veterans from legal dispensaries.
1 in 3 Americans now live in states where marijuana is legal yet for many of the nation's 18.2 million veterans, federal policy denies veterans access to cannabis from the VA as an alternative to addictive and dangerous opioids and pharmaceutical drugs. If you've ever talked to a veteran about their service and what was the most difficult part, most answer,,,having to adjust to being home. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, approximately 8% of US veterans have been positively diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lives. Every war and every tour has its own PTSD statistics. Only half of those veterans diagnosed with PTSD actually go through a treatment process, often met with a script for opioids and/or other dangerous and addictive medications. On average 20 veterans commit suicide every single day throughout the United States.
Cannabis is a safer alternative treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD as well as TBI (traumatic brain injury) but the roadblocks to access are driving many wounded warriors to the black market.
"The Remembrance Day symbolism of the poppy started with a poem written by a World War I brigade surgeon who was struck by the sight of the red flowers growing on a ravaged battlefield." - Sarah Pruitt, History.com
CA Prop 64 Impact on Medical Marijuana for Veterans
When Prop 64 was passed in California it drastically changed the marijuana industry and not necessarily for the better. While legally owned and operated dispensaries are now required to sell legally registered and tested cannabis products for both medical and recreational purposes, added costs to both cultivators and consumers, excessive state and local taxes and unreasonable rules and regulations have sharply increased prices, making it more difficult for those medically and financially burdened to find refuge in the legal medical cannabis space.
Dale Schafer, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, who spent five years in federal prison for growing medical marijuana at home, serves as a legal counsel for the Weed for Warriors Project, a nonprofit cannabis advocacy organization for veterans with chapters in politically consequential states such as Florida, Nevada, Wisconsin and California. Schafer notes that the cost of cannabis on the state-legal markets is still too high for most veterans.
Cannabis Cannot Be Donated in a Regulated System—Not Even To Veterans
Alex Traverso from the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California told Fast Company in an email that, “under current law, cannabis cannot be given away. Everything must be tied to a sale." This makes marijuana compassion programs throughout the country almost nonexistent. Nonprofit organizations aren't federally recognized eliminating tax incentives to donors making it harder for non-profit organizations to collect donations. Some organizations strive, but not without risk, to continue to bring veterans medical cannabis as well as resources to help them cope with post traumatic stress, (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other associated ailments."
BuzzWorthy are the organizations who provide veterans access to medical cannabis and other compassionate care programs.
Weed for Warriors Project
This group of passionate veterans is tired of hearing "take this pharmaceutical or take that pharmaceutical" from the Veterans Affairs when it comes to seeking help for their PTSD. Weed for Warriors Project is not just a community of veterans helping other veterans seek holistic rehabilitation and wellness solutions but together they're a social justice lifestyle brand. They see the bigger picture - veterans are dying every day and many of them by their own hand. Most of the organization is made up of veterans who have also been in the same boat but found relief and salvation in the cannabis plant. They support other veterans throughout the country offering them community-based projects, cannabis education, and compassionate care packages. As more and more veterans become a part of life-changing organizations like WFW Project, the more of our wounded warriors' lives are saved.
Formerly known as Grow for Vets USA, Hero Grown has been giving veterans access to cannabis as an organization since as early as 2013. Roger Martin, a proud US Army veteran and former police officer, who had his own personal struggle with PTSD and opioid addiction after his military service founded the organization. Cannabis saved his life as it helped him break his addiction and turn to a safer more natural treatment. In 2010, Roger started helping other veterans with their journey to seek comfort from cannabis as an alternative to prescribed opioids and other harmful medications that are given to veterans. He began offering free medical marijuana to veterans who wanted an alternative treatment to the highly addictive and dangerous pills the VA prescribed.
Veterans Cannabis Group
Aaron Augustis, the Founder of the Veterans Cannabis Group, knows the importance cannabis has on a veteran's life. He started the compassionate collective in order to bring more awareness to medical marijuana in the veteran community. Their mission is to be a resource for veterans who use medical cannabis in order to give them safe access to their medicine, proper cannabis education, as well as information on the resources and benefits that the VA offers as an alternative to prescription drugs. Aaron's hope is to strengthen the relationship between the veteran community and local government officials and cannabis businesses. From building these relationships, the organization also offers networking opportunities for veterans to work with other veterans in the cannabis industry.
As more and more veterans become a part of these and other life-changing organizations, the more of our wounded warriors' lives are saved.
Recent data points to 1 out 20 business owners being veterans, which speaks to the fact that their experience and perspective gives them the unique skill set needed to successfully take on challenges including entrepreneurship. Veterans are often able to demonstrate an inspiring style of leadership that is characterized by selflessness, balanced with the discipline to strive for continued growth and progress, and perfectly equipped to remain effective when facing the greatest of setbacks. We also acknowledge and support organizations and programs that help veterans turn their business aspirations into successful endeavors by making sure they are aware of the unique competitive advantages available to them such as exclusive grants, training resources, and mentoring. Most of all, while every veteran will have a different journey, community-based projects, cannabis education, and compassionate care packages undoubtedly are paramount to a success story. For a free online guide specifically for US Veterans who are in the process of starting or currently own a small business click here.
The Veteran's healthcare crisis extends beyond barriers to medical marijuana but to affordable healthcare access in general.
We remember on Veteran's Day the millions of wounded warriors who encounter mental and physical health challenges everyday, often as a direct result of their service. With unique challenges faced by female and LGBT veterans. According to a recent survey of injured post 9/11 veterans, 94 percent experienced physical injuries that are considered severe, 91 percent live with severe mental health conditions, and nearly a third need aid and attendance with everyday activities because of injuries.
Understanding how Medicare works in conjunction with VA military healthcare benefits is further challenging yet essential.
Medicare Plans Resource For Veterans is a strong resource and guide for exploring the benefits of having Medicare with VA health insurance coverage when eligible. Understanding how Medicare works with the VA and TRICARE, whether to enroll, how to enroll and most importantly strategies on how to maximize benefits, are covered. This new resource is provided by Medicare Plans Patient Resource Center that does not sell or provide healthcare plans and whose main mission is to provide expert Medicare education and counseling to ensure veteran's access to affordable health care solutions.
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