Medical marijuana in Colorado Springs: Drew Milburn touts cannabis to his fellow veterans

The prospect of an initiative that could ban dispensaries in Colorado Springs frustrates We Grow Colorado's Drew Milburn.

After all, he views his business as a public service -- one that can benefit fellow military veterans like him. He's especially eager to reach those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, who he feels can be helped by MMJ no matter what Colorado's health department says.

In March, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment actively lobbied against adding PTSD to the list of conditions that can be treated by medical marijuana, helping to kill an amendment to that effect. But Milburn says he's seen MMJ positively impact the lives of PTSD sufferers.

According to him, "the patients we have with PTSD or other combat-related injuries live a much healthier lifestyle when they use medical marijuana than when they're given prescription narcotics, which is their only other outlet currently."

As for Milburn, he's blessedly free of PTSD symptoms despite having served as a marine from 1980 to 1992. Combat opportunities were relatively few during this period with the exception of the first gulf war, when Milburn worked as a recruiter. However, he was stationed in Beirut in 1983, when an attack on barracks resulted in the deaths of 299 American and French troops. He wasn't in the barracks at the time, and he credits proper counseling with helping him process the fallout from this tragedy.

After leaving the marines, Milburn got into building custom motorcycles, after which he drifted into the medical marijuana industry in California, where he opened a dispensary in North Hollywood. But in 2009, as he was starting a family (he has a pair of kids age two and under), he decided that Colorado Springs would be a better place to put down roots.

"It's a Christian community where you have a lot of military, and people who value that," he notes. "Having been in the service and supported the country, I appreciate that the community supports the military. I feel that in Colorado Springs, people in general try to give back to the people who in many cases have given their blood, sweat and tears for our country.

"Unless you've been in the service, it may be hard to necessarily relate to that. But what's beautiful about this particular community is that there are so many service members past, present and future, and there's always an ongoing dialogue between them. And I think that's good, because dialogue is what keeps our community alive and thriving."

Not that he's full of praise for everything done by the Veterans Administration. In particular, he sees the VA's attitude toward medical marijuana to be counterproductive, particularly in light of what he sees as MMJ's superiority to prescribed narcotics.

"Typically, service members aren't into taking medication," he maintains. "Bottom line, you try to be a person of integrity, even with your body, which is why most of the men and women veterans I know aren't even happy to be using Ibuprofen, let alone some prescription drug they may not be sure what it's doing to them.

"We hear so many stories about prescription drugs and all their side effects -- and service members are looking for something that will help them with the least amount of harm to them ongoing."

Problem is, VA doctors are limited in what kind of medication they can offer patients. "They're prescribing drugs that pretty much nix people's quality of life, when, through medical marijuana, service members can live a very active lifestyle and still treat their symptoms."

Unfortunately, however, "the VA has its hands tied federally when it comes to medical marijuana. It's been my experience that where service members are concerned, unless they've found a civilian doctor they're being treated by, no one's even willing to talk about how much medical marijuana might be able to help them."

He believes an increasing number of non-military doctors are more open to the subject, though.

"It's still a very fine line doctors have to walk," he concedes. "But we're seeing more and more of them who are taking the time to study the effects of medical marijuana and are coming on-board. It's not from the aspect of making money from writing recommendations. It's out of true responsibility and caring for patients. And if they're not at least giving consideration to medical marijuana, they're not doing their patient justice, period."

With that in mind, We Grow Colorado sponsors occasional events designed specifically for PTSD patients. (At this writing, there's no firm date for the next one; check the dispensary's website for updates.) And despite the prospect of a ballot measure that might outlaw his business, Milburn hopes to offer her services in the Springs for the long haul.

"When people think of medical marijuana, they think guys are printing money," he notes. "But this isn't about money. It's about an industry I want to be involved in for the next twenty years. My goal is for my children to some day be able to openly say what their dad does without having them be looked at differently. Sometimes, people aren't necessarily comfortable saying, 'We're in the medical marijuana industry,' but I hope to remedy that in the next few years, by setting the example of what medical marijuana can do to help people who are hurting to have a better quality of life."

Veterans included.