While we know many in the Tar Heel State are eager for the day when they can get a North Carolina Marijuana Card, we also know no group of people is as eager for that day as our veterans are.
And is it any wonder? Medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for numerous conditions, including chronic pain and PTSD, two potentially debilitating conditions that affect veterans at higher rates than the general population.
We told you back in September that support for medical marijuana was growing among veterans in general, including veterans living in southern states and in North Carolina specifically. And since then, we’ve seen more indications that this trend is on the rise.
North Carolina Veterans Lobby for Medical Marijuana
There is no shortage of veterans who are willing to share their stories in support of medical marijuana with legislators and the public.
For example, we told you before about Wilmington resident Chayse Roth, who testified in June before the state legislature about his experiences, and about how medical marijuana could be a life-saving medicine for many of his fellow marines.
“I’ve lost more men to suicide since we went to Afghanistan in ’01 than I have in combat,” Roth told Kaiser Health. “It’s just unacceptable for these guys to go overseas and win the battle and come home and lose the battle to themselves.”
Roth’s testimony to state lawmakers was emotional and moving, as he shared stories of his fallen brothers in arms, brothers he believed might have been saved if they’d had safe, legal access to medical marijuana.
“I am here today because I have more deceased contacts in my phone due to suicide than I have lost men in combat over the last twenty years,” Roth told legislators. “That’s unacceptable.”
“If the passage of this bill prevents one one veteran from putting their pistol in their mouth, it’s worth it,” Roth continued. “And it’s our responsibility to get it done.”
Another North Carolina veteran who shared his emotional testimony that day was Josh Biddix, a veteran and former police officer who described his struggles with PTSD. Biddix said that at one time he was on 23 different V.A.-prescribed medications for his symptoms, “medications with side effects that made life almost unbearable at times,” he testified. “I have personally looked down the barrel of my own service weapon.” Biddix said he is now stable due to marijuana, which is why he wanted to see his medicine legalized.
Is North Carolina Really “the Most Veteran-Friendly State?”
And yet despite powerful testimony from Roth, Biddix, and others, Senate Bill 711, the state’s most successful attempt to date at passing medical marijuana legislation, has yet to make it to a floor vote in the Senate. It might be enough to make one wonder if ours is really “the most veteran-friendly state,” as billboards across North Carolina contend.
A look at some examples from other states can add to a cynical view of that particular slogan.
For example, consider Ohio. Unlike North Carolina, Ohio already has a medical marijana program, and in November their legislature began considering a bill to expand that program, making it easier for their residents to get an Ohio Marijuana Card.
That was welcome news to Ohio vet Robert Kowalski, who told the Columbus Dispatch that he was discharged from the Air Force for using marijuana to legally treat his PTSD. He turned to the medication to help him get off of the 22 medications he had been on, medications he said were detrimental to his life and career. He now runs Veterans Ending the Stigma, a nonprofit he founded that advocates for medical marijuana accessibility.
Kowalski told the Columbus Dispatch that veterans are increasingly turning to medical marijuana to help wean themselves off of more dangerous prescriptions, and that it’s helping them find better quality of life. He said this trend is also helping to dispel the notion that veterans are “ticking time bombs.”
“We’re not looked at as functioning members of society,” Kowalski said. “When you have a substance that gives you the capability to mitigate the flight or fight mechanism that’s been trained in our body...what we’re seeing is that stigma can be broken and that thought process and cycle can also be trained out.”
And while Kowalski has access to medical marijuana, he feels far too many of his fellow Ohioans don’t have the same privilege, and so he lobbies to get Ohio’s law expanded.
The combination of his lobbying efforts and those of other marijuana advocates means a state where veterans plagued by PTSD can safely and effectively treat their condition with cannabis, and where the state is considering expanding the number of patients - veterans and non-veterans alike - who can have access to safe, natural medical marijuana.
North Carolina May Lag Behind, but Our Vets Haven’t Given up on Us yet
But even if we aren’t currently living up to our vet-friendly slogan, our veterans haven’t given up on their state yet. In the case of one such vet, his efforts are even more poignant, because he only moved to the Tar Heel State as an adult, and knows from experience how much better medical marijuana access made his life.
WNCT, Greenville’s CBS and CW affiliate, spoke to George Papastrat, a veteran of the Marines, like Roth and Biddix. Unlike them, Papastrat is originally from New York, where he learned first hand how effective medical marijuana can be.
“You know, and never in 15 years in the Marine Corps, the thought really never even crossed my mind that (medical marijuana) would necessarily be an option. Until you know, the pain got real,” Papastrat told WNCT.
Papastrat retired from the Marines in 2016 for medical reasons. Eventually, he needed to get a lumbar fusion and needed opioids just to function. “I was taking opioids on active duty, and then for about three or four years after the fusion, I was taking opioid pain relievers, and that was just to make it so I could stand up, sit down and do daily tasks with my children,” he told WNCT.
And although Papastrat misses having safe and legal access to medical marijuana, he hasn’t given up on his new home. Instead he has been sharing his story with politicians and the media, hoping the most veteran-friendly state in the union will start doing as much for veterans as his home state of New York. Like veterans across the country, and a growing number right here in North Carolina, retiring from military service hasn’t meant Papastrat has stopped serving his country and state altogether.
“We’re not talking about letting people run around and do drugs. I’m a local business owner veteran that stayed here and supports my community. And I’m just asking for a fair shake of something other than an opioid,” he told WNCT.
And we hope our lawmakers finally give Papastat, all veterans, and all North Carolinians what they so richly deserve: safe, natural relief, without the danger of street drugs or the threat of legal consequences.
Relief is Coming to North Carolina, and You Can Get Ready for it Now
We’ve told you before about the many reasons we think medical marijuana in North Carolina is an inevitability. And while we know the waiting is hard, here’s the good news: You don’t have to wait to get started.
Reserve an evaluation today with one of our compassionate doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as North Carolina’s medical marijuana market is up and running.
You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually, using a smartphone, tablet or computer for a telemedicine appointment. Together you’ll discuss your condition and whether medical marijuana might be right for you, all without even leaving your home. You’ll even save $25 off the cost of your 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 the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-7320, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
Check out North Carolina Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the medical marijuana conversation in North Carolina!