Last week, a bill intended to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of approved conditions for treatment by medical marijuana failed in the Colorado legislature-- a decision one advocate called "shameful."
Roger Martin agrees. He's the executive director of Operation Grow4Vets, a new project intended to provide cannabis for veterans as an alternative to prescription narcotics. The price? Free.
Martin, 61, is a Vietnam-era army veteran who also worked in civilian law enforcement during the early years of his career before going into private business. He's now retired, and he says his experience dealing with treatment for medical conditions dating to his stint in the service and beyond informed him about the medical benefits of marijuana.
"I've always been very anti-drugs my entire life," he allows. "So years ago, when I was given Oxycontin for pain, and also Ambien, I realized I was probably headed down a dead-end street. Then, I met a doctor who gave me another drug, Suboxone, that she'd successfully used to get rich kids off heroin. But she didn't tell me it would take twelve to eighteen months to wean myself off everything -- and when I did it in five-and-a-half weeks, I wound up in the hospital.
"After that, another doctor suggested I try marijuana, and it made a huge difference not just for me, but for a lot of people. I met cancer patients who had remarkable transformations of physical appearance and overall health after they started using marijuana instead of narcotics."
More recently, Martin came into contact with "a lot of younger vets who were coming back from overseas with TBI [traumatic brain injuries] and PTSD and a lot of emotional issues -- and some of them were taking ten or twelve different drugs the VA prescribed every day. And that got me to thinking: Everybody's trying to make a buck on marijuana -- but what if we tried to do something to help these veterans for free?"
That's the simple concept behind Operation Grow4Vets. Over the past several months, Martin began reaching out to businesses and individuals interested in donating cannabis for veterans -- a concept made possible by new Veterans Administration policies instituted last year.
"Not long ago, if you told your VA doctor you were using any kind of marijuana, they were required to remove you from prescriptions for any pain medication," Martin points out. "Then they put out a new directive saying it's up to the discretion of individual doctors. But they still can't prescribe it. So I want to make it accessible to veterans -- not only veterans who are just coming home, but also veterans from my era, who have an even higher percentage of PTSD than the current ones do."
Even though the Operation Grow4Vets website and Facebook page have just been launched, Martin says "we're already swamped with applications from veterans who want help. There's obviously a big need for this -- and I'm going to focus all my time in order to fulfill that need to the best of my ability."
Martin is also dedicated to spreading the word about marijuana's medical applications -- including for veterans suffering from PTSD.
"That's another reason why our timing is really good," he says. "Last week, that compassionless committee in the legislature voted against allowing PTSD being listed as an accepted medical condition for treatment with marijuana, and that's absolutely outrageous.
"My ultimate goal would be to get legislators at both the state and federal level, as well as people at the VA, to wake up and show some compassion for veterans," he continues. "But until then, we want to do everything we can to help."
For more information about Operation Grow4Vets, click here.
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More from our Marijuana archive circa April 29: "Medical marijuana PTSD bill's failure is 'shameful,' advocate says."