By Dick Uliano
A veteran who lives in D.C. suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or another service-connected disability has something that similar veterans living in region do not — access to cannabis. A small group of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans gathered in Dupont Circle Monday afternoon in a rally aimed at changing that.
“What we have is a real instance of medical discrimination around the country because veterans didn’t fight for state-by-state, we fought for the entire country,” said Attorney Brandon Wyatt of D.C., a disabled and decorated Army combat veteran who served in Iraq. He is a policy analyst for the fledgling national group Weed For Warriors Project.
The vets, some of whom suffer from PTSD, say their symptoms are alleviated by cannabis — smoked, eaten, vaporized or in capsule form. And they say disabled vets are benefiting from the drug in states where it’s legal for residents, including D.C. They say the powerful pharmaceuticals being used to treat veterans’ disabilities including Opioids and Psychotropics are so dangerous, some of the drugs are labeled with suicide warnings.
“We have a suicide epidemic, we have an overdose epidemic,” said Sean Kiernan of San Diego, a four-year Army veteran and president of the Weed for Warriors Project. “It’s the pharmaceutical approach, in our opinion, that’s killing these veterans.”
Kiernan said he uses cannabis instead of Xanax to treat anxiety associated with PTSD.
“Cannabis is the least addictive, least deadly drug that we can put into our body to heal us,” Kiernan said.
The vets say some amputees use cannabis instead of Opioids for pain reduction. Also, cancer patients in their ranks could benefit from cannabis’ anti-nausea attribute, they added,
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doctors are restricted from discussing cannabis with patients, and the vets point out that they could lose benefits if they raised the issue with the doctor.
“We got thousands of vets out there in the states using cannabis and still going to the VA. The VA isn’t taking a heck of a lot of care in what’s happening in their lives,” said Michael Krawitz, a four-year Air Force veteran living in Endicott, Virginia.
The vets salute freshman Congressman Tom Garrett, a Republican representing Virginia’s 5th District — an Army veteran who is promoting legislation that would increase veterans’ access to cannabis.
“We fought for the freedoms of all Americans and our biggest fight today is the freedom of choice, the freedom of safe access,” said William Reckner of Columbia, Maryland, a Navy veteran who served in the Iraq War.