Nevada City, CA November 11, 2016 – For some military men and women, growing cannabis is as much about alleviating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other injuries as it is about creating life opportunities for fellow veterans.
Grown by Vets is a Nevada County-based organization that does just that.
“We are trying to create a situation where people can really help themselves and have a connected feeling to the community,” said Rolf Johnson, the Navy veteran who conceived the idea for the organization.
Grown by Vets is just an idea for now, said Johnson. But the goal is to run it like an agricultural cooperative that allows veterans to cultivate cannabis in other people’s properties who can’t otherwise tend a garden by themselves.
Johnson, who served for 16 years as a Naval Special Warfare and Navy Diver, said many veterans leave the service without a sense of purpose or without any career or job prospects. He said the program would create jobs for veterans, many of whom are cash-strapped when reintegrating into society.
“Many of them don’t have a feeling of connection,” he said. “We wanted to start a group that would give jobs, provide medicine to vets and make a decent wage doing something of therapeutic value, like gardening.”
In addition to garden therapy, veterans would benefit from receiving a portion of the medical-grade cannabis they grow.
Johnson said the idea is to grow the cooperative into an organization similar to Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, a collective that provides qualified California military veterans with medical-grade cannabis grown by fellow veterans.
“There is a veteran health epidemic going on in this country and we believe we have a powerful tool in fighting for veteran care,” the group states on its website. “We do our part to reduce this heartbreaking number through the healing power of medical cannabis, horticultural therapy and camaraderie.”
In spite of the issues facing veterans, it has been a positive year for military men and women looking for alternative healing modalities.
The Drug Enforcement Administration approved a study in April on the effects of medical cannabis on post-traumatic stress disorder. It was a landmark decision. For the first time, the federal government allowed controlled research in the U.S. for PTSD that involved the use the actual cannabis plant instead of oils or synthesized compounds.
The DEA gave approval to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, to buy the cannabis for the study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
With a $2.1 million grant from the State of Colorado, MAPS will be able to show results that will provide a picture on adequate dosage, composition, side effects, and areas of benefit to clinicians and legislators considering cannabis as a treatment for PTSD, according to a MAPS press release.
Back in May, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate considered approving an amendment that would have prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from using federal funds to stop VA doctors from providing patients with recommendations to use medical cannabis.
If passed, it would have been a major win on the war to keep United States military men and women from having legal access to medical cannabis, which to many provides a safer alternative to prescription opiates.
However, a military veteran who is eligible for VA health care cannot be refused those services if he or she is using medical marijuana authorized by a non-VA health care provider.
“It looks like we are making a lot of progress in that arena,” said Phillip Northcutt, who was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps and served in Ramadi, Iraq from 2004 to 2005. “Anything that makes cannabis more accessible to veterans is good.”
Northcutt, who injured his L-4 and L-5 vertebrae operating a machine gun, was given “a grocery bag” full of opiates by his doctor.
Northcutt said he wasn’t the only one. Fellow veterans with injuries using opiates often fell into depression. He saw may commit suicide, he said.
“Anything that can help vets get away from lethal, toxic treatments to a treatment that is non-toxic is going to be good for them,” Northcutt said. “When I started using medical cannabis my life turned around.”
Maria Herrera is the Communications Director for the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance. For more information visit www.nccannabisalliance.org