Veterans in Colorado can now add free marijuana to their list of service benefits. The organization Grow4Vets, a Denver-based nonprofit that provides “alternative” treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury, is having a pot giveaway Saturday in Denver. Veterans who signed up before noon Friday will receive more than $200 worth of cannabis products, according to the company’s website. Those who miss the RSVP deadline can pay $20 at the door in exchange for $100 worth of weed.
“Operation Grow4Vets events put cannabis in the hands of veterans who need it most,” the organization’s founder and executive director Roger Martin told ABC7 News Denver. "Our events are open to the public to help grow visibility for our cause."
The organization’s objective is more noble than simply introducing veterans to a better high – its mission, the founders say, is to reduce the “staggering” number of vets in the U.S. who die from suicide and prescription drug overdose. Every day in the U.S., 22 veterans commit suicide, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. The suicide rate for veterans is twice as much as the civilian rate, a sobering statistic that underscores the need to better treat veteran PTSD.
While the country moves forward with marijuana legalization, the VA cannot recommend medical weed to veterans. However, vets can take advantage of medical marijuana programs in states where medical weed is legal, but only if they do not disclose their marijuana use to the VA. Telling the VA could mean losing their prescription narcotic painkillers, according to USA Today.
In March, the federal government approved a study on whether or not marijuana can reduce symptoms of PTSD in veterans, but the investigation took a punch to the gut when its lead researcher was let go and the study was put on hold. Treating PTSD with marijuana would be “safer and better” if research were allowed to continue, Brad Burge, director of communications for the nonprofit that oversaw the PTSD study before its lead author was fired, said in July.
Veterans’ advocates in New York state who supported medical marijuana for PTSD treatment played a big role in the state’s passage of the Compassionate Care Act in June. The new law legalized medical marijuana for patients approved by a healthcare provider.
But legalizing weed does not mean that a state has become entirely weed friendly. The marijuana industry in Colorado has started a campaign to destigmatize marijuana use after industry leaders perceived some unfriendly criticism. The campaign is aimed at promoting moderate and safe consumption of marijuana products and educating the public about what they see as misinformation about pot. “So far, every campaign designed to educate the public about marijuana has relied on fear-mongering and insulting marijuana users,” Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s biggest pot-policy advocacy group, told CBS Denver.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a local pizza joint has started offering marijuana-laced pizzas with all the same toppings as regular pizza to pot dispensaries in the area. Stoned Oven Gourmet Pizzas’ pot pizzas contain 250 mg of ethanol-extracted THC and is available at medical marijuana dispensaries in Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, Westwood and Upland, according to the Los Angeles Times.