Texas veterans discuss how marijuana helps combat war injuries
Texas veterans came together this past weekend in Austin to discuss the medicinal benefits of marijuana and what they could do to legalize the plant for medical use.
The conference was put on by the non-profit Texas chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Texas NORML), on Saturday July 19 at the George Washington Carver Public Library. The event included speakers and attendees from all over the state who shared testimonials of how cannabis has helped themselves and their loved ones after returning from deployment.
About 90 people attended the conference, and it began with an introduction from U.S. Army veteran David Bass, the Director of Veterans Outreach for Texas NORML, who recognized all of the troops in attendance for their service and continued dedication to both their country and communities.
Bass introduced the first speaker, Lee Birch, describing him as “one of the most patriotic men I know.” Birch talked about how his use of cannabis helped wean himself off of the many pills he was prescribed, and manage the effects of his post war trauma, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and chronic pain.
Deputy Director of Dallas-Fort Worth’s NORML and U.S. Navy veteran Tristan Tucker gave the keynote address, discussing a range of issues currently plaguing the veteran community including sexual assault and lack of healthcare.
“Over 86 percent of sexual assaults in the military go unreported,” said Tucker. “The largest demographic for sexual assault in 2012 was for recruits under the care of a recruiting station, totaling 10 percent of all reports – a 325 percent increase from FY 2011.”
Touching on the healthcare difficulties veterans are facing, Tucker added “the Department of Veteran Affairs is backlogged with over 1,000,000 veterans waiting for disability ratings to be eligible for healthcare.”
Louie Minor, who served with the National Guard in Iraq and is a Killeen area police veteran, spoke in support of medical marijuana as well as LGBT rights. He is also a Democratic candidate for Congressional District 31.
“Ideas are not going to happen unless you are involved in the political system,” said Minor.
Texas Monthly contributing editor and director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute, William Martin, also spoke at the conference.
“America’s drug problem comes from our drug policies,” said Martin.
Martin’s article, ‘War Without End’, was featured in Texas Monthly’s June 2014 issue and contained four personal stories and testimonials from veterans about how medical cannabis can help with post-war mental and physical injuries.
Editor of the Austin420 magazine, Vincent Lopez, who is also the director of Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics and director of Texas NORML’s Patient Outreach, spoke to the crowd about how cannabis eases his pain associated with muscular dystrophy.
“The bigger picture is the future generations, not my own life,” said Lopez. “Cannabis doesn’t cure my condition, but it will help alleviate my suffering.”
Founder and executive director of NORML of Waco Inc., and US Air Force veteran Clifford ‘Clif’ Deuvall enthralled the audience with a story of his last deployment in Vietnam. Deuvall received a head injury in the air force which eventually led to the loss of an eye, among other service-related disabilities.
Medical cannabis helped Deuvall get away from the life-threatening prescriptions he was addicted to, and gave him his life back.
“300 pills can be replaced with one seed,” said Deuvall.
Manager of Under the Hood Café in Killeen and army veteran Malachi Muncy, who works with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans coming home to adapt to the civilian world, urged veterans to come together as a community to demand their benefits and support one another.
Military wife Vicki Smith brought the crowd to tears with the story of her husband Carl and his struggles with obtaining adequate healthcare within Veterans Affairs.
“I will fight for my husband to get what he needs to get better, and I urge all military wives to help fight for their husbands since they fought for us,” said Smith.
Jessica Gelay of Drug Policy Alliance traveled from New Mexico to attend the conference and informed attendees of Doctor Sue Sisley, a member of the Department of Psychiatry at Arizona State University who was given a federal grant to research medical cannabis and its effects on PTSD, but was suddenly terminated afterwards.
Texas NORML also touched on their 2015 legislative session strategy and helped equip those in attendance to properly address their representatives in order to get medical marijuana legislation passed.
Attendees included veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause in Panama, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.
By: Allison Nash
Edited by Stephen Carter
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