Marijuana: Jeremy Usher, Navy vet, could go to jail for treating his PTSD with cannabis

After returning from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq ten years ago, Navy veteran Jeremy Usher experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder according to the Greeley Tribune. He subsequently tried treating his condition with alcohol, resulting in multiple DUIs and a probationary sentence. But switching to medical marijuana to address his ailment could lead to jail. Marijuana-reform advocates have worked for more than two years to eliminate the kind of prospect currently facing Usher -- but thus far to no avail.

In July 2010, as we reported at the time, a group of veterans, lawyers and activists presented a petition to the Colorado Board of Health asking that PTSD by added to the list of conditions treatable by marijuana.

"We've been hearing from veterans for years who have been injured in the line of duty protecting our country and have PTSD related to that," said Brian Vicente, who'd go on to become one of the primary proponents of Amendment 64. "And they're concerned about the lack of veteran access for medical marijuana for PTSD. Currently, veterans face criminal prosecution for possessing or using medical marijuana to alleviate any sort of medical condition, and we just think that's unconscionable. People who have served our country deserve the best access to health care possible."

The following September, however, the state health department rejected the petition without even bothering to hold a hearing to look into the evidence presented by its supporters. Vicente was frustrated by this decision. "I feel like this is just an absolutely arbitrary decision on behalf of the health department," he told us, adding, "I think they've allowed their prejudice to cloud compassion. They should have at least allowed for a public hearing, so we could hear from experts regarding this issue."

Last year, a breakthrough on this topic seemed to take place at the federal level. In April, the Food and Drug Administration approved a study related to PTSD and marijuana, giving the go-ahead to the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to analyze the effect of five marijuana treatments apiece on fifty veterans with PTSD for whom other more conventional approaches hadn't worked.

Problem is, another federal agency, the Health and Human Services Department, refused to sell MAPS government-grown marijuana provided to a handful of patients nationwide -- including Irvin Rosenfeld, subject of a November 2010 Westword blog.

Vicente's response to that?

Continue for more about marijuana and PTSD.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

Latest Stories