I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and joined the Marine Corps on November 3, 2003. After my training in boot camp, I went to the School of Infantry. Once I finished my training, I was deployed to Iraq. Back then, I never thought I might one day use cannabis as medicine.
In Iraq, I served in the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, which was the 1st Marine Division deployed out of Camp Pendleton, California. During my first tour, I spent most of 2004 in the Anbar Province in Iraq. I deployed again in 2005, one month before my first son was born, I was away until late 2006.
Overseas my unit did a lot and we saw a lot of combat and sustained many injuries. During my first tour, over half my platoon earned Purple Hearts, by the time we were done mainly from all the IEDs and land mine blasts we took. Thankful most of the injuries were minor due to the strength and security of our vehicles.
Fighting a new Battle at Home:
When I returned home, I was diagnosed with PTSD. At the time, there was a major stigma against PTSD, both inside the Armed Forces and in the general public. I couldn’t tell anyone and I didn’t want anyone to know. When you’re apart of such an elite group of fighters that take so much pride in what they do and how professional they act the last thing you’re allowed to do is be weak. When you rely to the left man and to the right to keep you alive you have to be strong, that’s the only way to win and come back home.
People that come back from combat and suffer from PTSD, their brain doesn’t just go back to “normal”. You’re constantly active and alert. For example, if I’m in a restaurant I will “zone out” from any conversation and start watching everyone around me and what they are doing. I go to work like any other person. I have children that love and take care of like any other parent. But, when the night comes around and it’s quiet, I find it really hard to slow down my brain and my thinking and it makes it very hard to sleep. The anxiety keeps me awake and alert and I lay in bed awake for hours sometimes.
I tried several different sleeping pills, but the problem is they make you loopy, it’s hard to wake up and I always felt hungover from the pills in the mornings. I hated taking them especially if I ever had an emergency in the night, plus I’ve seen so many people get addicted to them and heard plenty of stories of people overdosing on them or mixing them with the wrong medications and dying.
How Medical Cannabis Helped Me:
With cannabis, I don’t have those negative side effects. It helps me stay calm at night and relax and get a good night’s sleep. Plus, I don’t feel any hangover effect in the morning and it is non-addictive. There is also very little risk of death from overdosing.
The worst part about this whole fight over legal cannabis is the stigma many people still hold. People think we are just sitting somewhere taking bong rips and doing nothing with our lives, when the truth couldn’t be any more different. It’s a medicine, like any other pharmaceutical, and taken responsibly can be very effective for many people.
I don’t take it during the day, I don’t drive on it, and I never take it when I am in a position of responsibility. I know so many other veterans that use cannabis to help them deal with their health issues and it’s been very effective for them, just like it is for me. For our federal government to deny veterans and other Americans to use cannabis is hurtful to our communities. When used responsibly, like any other medication, it can very effective to help out our vets and fellow Americans in our communities.