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Herb for Heroes

Veterans fight for their right to light up

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Medical marijuana issues are misunderstood by the general public. Most people don’t even have a handle on the basic demographic facts. Outside observers naturally assume the clientele skews young and hip–to hipsters, hippies and hip-hop artists–but that’s not the case. More than half the individuals who hold medical cards in Florida qualify for membership in the AARP; many of them are members. The party crowd still gets their needs met through the black market, whereas Amendment 2’s major beneficiaries have been those who stick to the straight and narrow. Finally, these folks have safe, legal options for dealing with legitimate issues ranging from COPD to PTSD to HIV. (If you have any other letters, you can probably use those, too. The law is so broadly defined, nearly everyone is a potential patient.)

Many of these patients, here and around the country, are military veterans, particularly those who served in our first wars of the new century. Operation Iraqi Freedom was the event that really brought the issue of post-traumatic stress into a mainstream discussion. The cold realization that more active-duty and veteran military personnel have committed suicide over the past decade than have died in combat is so terribly upsetting it defies description. The physical and mental hardships and anguish suffered by many vets are silent killers, and the extreme dysfunctionality within the Veterans Administration system itself makes the situation worse. Some patients have to wait months for even the most basic care.

The efficacy of cannabis in their situations is borne out anecdotally by the vets themselves—they have long comprised a consistently persistent cadre within the medical marijuana movement, a subset whose perspective cannot be easily dismissed.

There are at least two national organizations devoted to cultivating veteran vipers in Northeast Florida, and each has local chapters that offer their services at no charge. The subtly-named Buds For Vets and the less-subtly named Weed For Warriors operate independently of each other, albeit with considerable overlap among their membership.

Both make themselves available for veterans seeking certification to consume the classic Colorado Cocktail. Florida has nearly 1.5 million vets, which ranks us third in the nation. That means the issue has particular resonance here. The two groups, combined, have obtained medical cards for a couple of hundred vets in the area, and those numbers are growing in rough proportion to the rest of the nation. Of course, the Veterans Administration takes no public position on this matter, given federal mandates, but most vets have given up on looking to them for anything anyway. That’s exactly why the issue of medical marijuana resonates among those who have given so much. After risking life and limb (literally) for our freedom, they have now begun to fight for their own.

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Got questions about medical marijuana? Let us answer them. Send inquiries to mail@folioweekly.com.

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