- D.H. Reilly
Veterans for Medical Marijuana in Southern States
Veterans fought for your freedom overseas, and now they’re fighting for your right to get a Kentucky Marijuana Card.
Kaiser Health News recently produced a news article examining how veterans have played a crucial part in the medical marijuana movement, and how they’re expected to play a big part in spreading that movement through the 14 states that still haven’t started medical marijuana markets. Veterans are expected to be especially helpful in bringing medical cannabis to those states in the South that haven’t yet gotten with the times.
The Kaiser article, which was published by both USA Today and Stars and Stripes, traces modern marijuana advocacy back to the AIDS crisis of the eighties, and it attributes much of the movement’s success to the eventual involvement of veterans. The article also makes a convincing argument that it will be veterans who lead the charge in bringing medical marijuana to the 14 states where it remains illegal.
Expanding the Focus of Marijuana Legalization
According to scholars, the modern marijuana legalization movement was a product of California’s Bay Area during the 1980s, when AIDS patients began demanding more treatment options. The movement didn’t gain much traction outside of California at the time, however, because of the negative societal stigma at the time against people with AIDS.
Lee Hannah, a political science professor at Wright State University, told Kaiser Health News that in order to be effective, early marijuana activists had to expand their outreach to “more target populations that evoke sympathy, understanding and support.”
And because there were so many people suffering from conditions that medical marijuana can treat, those AIDS activists didn’t have a hard time finding new allies. According to Hannah, the movement grew from seeking help for AIDS patients to also include epilepsy, cancer, and PTSD sufferers.
According to Hannah’s collaborator, Daniel Mallinson, a public affairs professor, that expanded approach “helped change the view of who a marijuana user is. That makes it more palatable in these legislatures where it wouldn’t have been before.”
Inclusion of Veterans in Cause Expected to Help Expand Medical Marijuana
And now that there are so many veterans working so proudly and prominently with advocacy groups, it is expected to place renewed pressure on those states that haven’t yet created medical marijuana markets. That’s because several of those holdout states are, like Kentucky, dominated politically by Republicans. Conservatives have long prided themselves on being veteran-friendly, and in this new paradigm, their traditional opposition to legalization is starting to show some cracks.
According to the president and founder of South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance, Jill Swing, much of medical marijuana’s growing public support is due to evolving beliefs of Republicans. “The greatest increase in support has been Republicans who support it,” Swing told WGHP, Greensboro, North Carolina’s Fox affiliate. She said that Republican politicians used to worry about losing support if they seemed soft on marijuana, but those fears are lessening now that some Republicans have supported medical marijuana and “have been touted as heroes” for championing the cause of the suffering.
Veterans Seen as Vital to Legalization in the South
While it took a broad coalition to take the medical marijuana movement beyond California, veterans are considered especially important to finishing the job in the South. According to Julius Hobson, Jr., a political science professor at George Washington University, crafting an effective campaign for change in the South requires messengers who resonate with the region’s conservative values.
“When you’ve got veterans coming in advocating for (medical marijuana), and they’re considered to be a more conservative bunch of folks, that has more impact. That’s what gives them clout,” Hobson told Kaiser.
Lawmakers Moved by Veterans’ Testimony
According to a medical marijuana advocate with deep Southern ties, veterans are so respected in the South that their testimonies can carry more weight with legislators.
In addition to being a spokesperson for NC Families for Medical Cannabis, Garrett Purdue is the son of former North Carolina governor Beverly Perdue. “For [lawmakers] to hear stories of those people that are trusted to protect us and enforce the right of law,” Purdue told Kaiser Health News, “is pretty compelling.”
Chayse Roth discovered that for himself once he began advocating for medical marijuana. A resident of Wilmington, North Carolina, Roth served several stints as a Marine in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Since returning to civilian life, he has lobbied on behalf of NC Families for Medical Cannabis.
While Roth doesn’t use marijuana himself, he told Kaiser Health News that he wants other people, especially veterans, to have access to medical marijuana for their conditions. “I’ve lost more men to suicide since we went to Afghanistan in ’01 than I have in combat. It’s just unacceptable for these guys to go overseas and win the battle and come home and lose the battle to themselves.”
Gary Hess, another Marine who has taken up the cause of medical marijuana, once testified before the Louisiana Legislature about how traditional pharmaceuticals had not alleviated his PTSD, whereas medical marijuana had. Not only did Louisiana go on to establish a medical marijuana market, but Hess was the first veteran in the state to be given a Louisiana Marijuana Card.
One legislator who witnessed Hess’ testimony was a former colonel who told Hess that “They’re not going to say no to a veteran because of the crisis you’re all in.”
“Once I saw the power my story had,” Hess said, “the goal became: How do I expedite this process for others?” To that end, he has gone on to found his own medical marijuana advocacy non-profit.
Veteran or Not, Your Story Also Matters
While veterans’ stories may be especially persuasive in the South, they’re not the only people who suffer, nor are they the only ones who deserve relief from that suffering.
And while the efforts of veterans who served our nation and who now have dedicated themselves to broadening access to medical marijuana haven’t resulted in medical marijuana in Kentucky yet, they haven’t stopped fighting. And we’re betting on them to win eventually.
But you don’t have to wait for that victory before taking the first steps towards benefitting from it. Reserve an evaluation today with one of our caring, qualified doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as Kentucky’s medical marijuana market is up and running.
You’ll meet with your doctor virtually, using your smartphone, tablet, or computer for a telemedicine appointment, meaning you can find out from the comfort of your own home if medical marijuana might be right for you. Not only that, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of the evaluation!
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-6360, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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