The Cannabis Literary Society Launches

The Cannabis Literary Society Launches

Do you love literature? Do you love cannabis? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you’re in luck. The Cannabis Literary Society officially launched earlier this year in Denver, Colorado.

An organization with a goal to simply “celebrate literature and celebrate cannabis,” according to Augusta Fleming of the Cannabis Literary Society, the CLS has opened yet another door to cannabis inclusion in hobbies and interests. Book worms, lit lovers, people of the plant are loving the creative vision of cannabis in the world of written works discussions.

Unlike other literary societies, where the genre of the literature can be fairly specific, such as fiction, nonfiction, and special interest, the Cannabis Literary Society examines multiple genres in written works. The only prerequisite to be featured and highlighted in CLS is that the book include some aspect relative to cannabis or that the author be an open cannabis advocate or consumer.

cannabis-literary-societyOne hitters of cannabis provided at the CLS event. (ADBHilterbran photo/MassRoots)

 

The Cannabis Literary Society boasts monthly Book Club Meetings with complimentary refreshments, edibles and other cannabis products held in varying locations throughout Denver that are free for members to attend.

Memberships are normally $42.00 monthly or $420.00 annually but CLS is offering discounted specials of $4.20 a month or $42.00 annual membership until July 1st, 2017. You can email CLS for your membership application or visit their Facebook page and send a message requesting the form.

Membership is open to any global citizen with identification proof that they are at least 21 years of age. “We welcome consumers and non-consumers of cannabis, but we hope all members are lovers of literacy and respect the plant,” said Jason Hilterbran, co-founder of CLS, a Republican who does not consume cannabis.

“It’s time to focus on the science, the facts and the future of this plant. Literature is an important aspect to the future of cannabis normalcy.”

cannabis-literary-societyCLS members socialize after the meet and greet. (ADBHilterbran photo/MassRoots)

 

In addition to the monthly book club meetings, a personalized CLS membership card, discounts with strategic partners, merchandise discounts and invitations to private, exclusive cannabis events, members are invited to the monthly Author Meet & Greet and Book Signing events.

“We’re moving mountains here. Integrating cannabis and literature is another step toward normalcy. Nothing is more natural than a plant and a good book,” said Fleming.

The monthly event hosts a different author or authors each month and highlights one of their books. Authors and books are selected from the ever-growing cannabis works collection and represent a variety of presentations and genres, including cooking, biographies, instructional, medical, legal, historical, social, cultural among many others.

cannabis-literary-societyAuthors Ashley Picillo & Lauren Devine with Ajoya rep Jake McCarthy. (ADBHilterbran photo/MassRoots)

 

The first Author Meet and Greet and Book Signing event for the Cannabis Literary Society was held on May 23, 2017. It featured authors Ashley Picillo and Lauren Devine who co-wrote the book, Breaking the Grass Ceiling. The book features a compilation of biographies of 21 female leaders in the cannabis industry or movement. A general introduction and author’s presentation about the book was followed by a brief overview on the inspiration behind Breaking the Grass Ceiling during the first meeting of the Cannabis Literary Society.

Author Ashley Picillo is also Founder and CEO of Point Seven Group, and had the opportunity to introduce her book to the world at South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals. SXSW is known around the world and has been one of the most successful grassroots events in the US.

“It was the most, worldwind, chaotic, rewarding 90 days of my life,” said author Ashley Picillo,” I still can’t believe we were able to pull it together so quickly. It was nothing short of ‘meant to be’ and the impact these women have made on my life, on the lives of so many others, I’m inspired to be a part of something so inspirational.”

Members of the Cannabis Literary Society and the audience were then invited to participate in a Q & A before the book signing and photographs with the authors. The evening concluded with over an hour of socializing, downtown Denver mingling on the rooftop and discussions of the prospects for Breaking the Grass Ceiling II, III and beyond.

When is the next meeting of the Cannabis Literary Society?

The next book club meeting for the Cannabis Literary Society will be held at the Millennium Grown office on Monday, June 20, 2017 at 7:00pm. Breaking the Grass Ceiling will be discussed.

cannabis-literary-societyRobyn Griggs Lawrence, author of Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook. (Photo provided by Robyn Griggs Lawrence)

 

The next Author Meet & Greet, Book Signing event is set for Tuesday of the following week, and highlights Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook. On Tuesday, June 27, 2017, Lawrence, also the author of Wabi-Sabi House and Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, will discuss her online course, The Fundamentals of Cooking with Cannabis. Attendees will also be offered a few “In the Kitchen” tricks for cannabis cooking.

The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook was named Amazon’s #1 New Release in 2016 for both Gourmet Cooking and Herb Spice, and Condiment Cooking. Lawrence and colleagues are breaking boundaries in the culinary world. Last year, they attended the National Restaurant Association Trade Show and were a featured panel discussion. The discussion was all about cooking with cannabis, another indicator that the mainstream is becoming more aware, possibly accepting, of utilizing the cannabis plant in normal, everyday aspects of life and living.

cannabis-literary-societyInfused edibles at the author meet and greet. (ADBHilterbran photo/MassRoots)

Sponsors of the May and June Cannabis Literary Society events are Ajoya, Hoban Law Group, Veedverks, Wana, and Fountain of Health CBD. Seating space is limited to the first 75 people – 150 people depending upon the author/venue that month and books can be purchased at the monthly events or online.

Currently, there are no other literary societies in the United States that have officially integrated cannabis into their membership or mission, but that will likely change as more and more laws regarding cannabis evolve, decriminalization continues and logic prevails in leadership.

The Cannabis Literary Society is already expanding to California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Puerto Rico with goals of being in every state and country that has legal cannabis for adults by the end of 2018.

Canna Yama Kula, the Cannabis Yoga Community

Canna Yama Kula, the Cannabis Yoga Community

As cannabis becomes more normalized and science-based information about the plant more mainstream, subcultures in our society are beginning to integrate consumption into activities, hobbies, groups and more. Yogis are no exception.

“Canna” = Cannabis
Yama” = Yoga
Kula” = Community

The Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India is considered the beginning of Yoga some 5,000 years ago, ironically, about the same time as earliest evidence shows humans interacted with the cannabis plant. Used not just for raw materials, but for use as a medicine or recreational ingestion and even burial shrouds. This indicates the cannabis plant was used in most, if not all, aspects of life for various cultures over thousands of years.

It would seem logical that activities like yoga would synergize well with the plant, many natural principles apply.

canna-yama-kula

(Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran photo)

Patañjali, compiler of the Yoga sūtras, established the ten basic principles to Yoga:

  1. AHIMSA – Non-violence: No killing. Be peaceful.
  2. SATYA – Truthfulness: Be honest. Live a trustworthy and integral life.
  3. ASTEYA – Righteousness: Be fair. Don’t cheat. Don’t Steal.
  4. BRAHMACHARYA – Wisdom: Focus on inner happiness and peace.
  5. APARIGRAHA – Simplicity: Be moderate with enjoyment and consumption.
  6. ISHVARA-PRANIDHANA – Worship of the spiritual goal: Mediate and pray often.
  7. SHAUCHA – Sacrifice the ego: Let go of your ego and be your true self.
  8. TAPAS – Self-discipline: Lead a Disciplined Life.
  9. SVADHYAYA – Reading: Practice Mantras with Meditation.
  10. SANTOSHA – Contentment: Wholly Satisfied with One’s Life.
canna-yama-kula

(Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran photo)

As more states and countries decriminalize and legalize cannabis, Yoga and other activities will evolve to include cannabis. Some consider cannabis integration into fitness as a potential gamechanger, a recent article in VOGUE magazine highlights cannabis-fitness infusion as more than just a fleeting trend.

Currently, pot-friendly Yogi’s and Yogini’s integrate cannabis into their Yoga in different ways. As an aspect of their meditation practice, consuming before their Yoga routine… or after. Some prefer to smoke while others love edibles or a nice cannabis tea. However you choose to make your yoga experience a Canna Yama experience, make sure to check out several Kula, community, options.

canna-yama-kula

(Photo courtesy of Shelly Jenkins)

Twisted Sister Yoga, the creative vision of Shelly Jenkins Griffin, offers traditional yoga classes as well as “ganja yoga” and cannabis friendly yoga retreats.

The “Elevate and Align Ganja Yoga Retreat” is presented by Dank and has an upcoming retreat at Aspen Canyon Ranch June 25th – 28th. The retreat includes daily Yoga and Meditation classes; multiple activities, a Dank Dispensary Tour, Mindful Coloring and Chakra Alignment Workshop. The retreat includes 2 nights lodging, custom vegetarian cuisine and specialty swag bags for attendees. All attendees must be 21+ with a valid ID. Tickets are still available here with limited space remaining.

canna-yama-kula

(Photo courtesy of Rachael Carlevale)

Rachael Carlevale is the founder of Ganjasana, whose mission is to “Deepen connection with cannabis plant spirit medicine”. Offering classes, retreats, Goddess Gatherings, and even online classes, Ganjasana is deeply committed to the most holistic and authentically natural experience with the cannabis master plant, “Our ceremonies are designed to model nature, to align with her natural rhythms, to connect with cannabis plant spirit medicine,” said Carlevale.

Upcoming events for Ganjasana include a sold-out Goddess Gathering in New York; the Back 2 Balance Breathwork Retreat on June 23rd – 25th in Lyons, Colorado; and a Women’s Cannabis Yoga Camping Retreat in Pagosa Springs, Colorado on August 24-27, 2017.

canna-yama-kula

(Photo courtesy of Cultivated Synergy)

Another option for the cannabis yoga community are the Bend & Blaze Yoga classes at Cultivated Synergy in the RiNo district of Denver. The evening consumption friendly yoga experience is meant to “Deepen your yoga practice by having the option of incorporating one of nature’s most amazing plants,” said Cultivated Synergy Co-Founder & CEO, Ryan Tatum.

The classes are taught by Amanda Hitz, a local, certified Yoga Instructor and cannabis lover. Bend & Blaze is a donation based, all Levels Hatha flow class for adults 21+ and older. It pairs a detoxifying workout and centering restoration with the cannabis plant for an enlightening experience. Bend & Blaze classes are on varying dates, so check out the Cultivated Synergy calendar for the next B&B.

Whether it’s at a class or studio or at home, the cannabis yoga community is growing and more Yogi’s are including cannabis into their Yama and meditation for a truly elevated experience. Namaste!

canna-yama-kula

(Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran photo)

PTSD Parents

PTSD Parents

Sometimes, something happens that changes you forever. Not in a good way. It leaves you a different person, with different fears, insecurities and perspectives. Sometimes, what you experience is some impactful, so traumatic, that your brain is branded, your psyche is scarred. You now live life, traumatized.

PTSD is the acronym for “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Most people associate PTSD with veterans, appropriately so, with staggering numbers of veteran suicide in America resulting from PTSD. The number now, is 22 veteran suicides a day in the US, and pharmaceuticals aren’t helping. In many cases, side effects from the pharmaceuticals make it worse. Weight loss or gain, acne, headaches, or worse, homicidal and suicidal thoughts are common side effects for the prescriptions for most vets with PTSD.

But looking at other demographics of people with PTSD, non-veteran PTSD: First responders, child victims of violent crimes, adult victims of violent crimes, survivors of natural disaster, caretakers, parents of chronically or terminally Ill children, and the dynamics of the PTSD are different, but the symptoms, impact and often, the outcome, are sadly the same. We just don’t keep a running count of those suicide rates.

ptsd-parents-cannabis

Last year, Rachael Selmeski testified before Colorado’s House of Representatives asking members to support legislation that would allow medical marijuana patients to have their medicine administered at school, “Jack’s Law’.

“Everyday I fight just to keep my child alive,” Rachael told the tearful legislators who had heard her detail Maggie’s story, “Every single day.” The Selmeski family hasn’t fought everyday for weeks, or months, but for years. Rachael’s daughter, Magdalyne Joy, “Maggie” or “Mags” has epilepsy. She’s had seizures since she was an infant.

ptsd-parents-cannabis

Their family blog talks about her first prescriptions: “Maggie is on 5 medicines, one of which is Pepcid for her little tummy to help deal with the others. She takes Keppra and Trileptal at 7 and 7, and then Clonazepam and Zonisamide at 11 and 11. Those around us notice the traveling pharmacy,” posted Rachael. What others didn’t see was the side effects, the misery and the waiting. Living everyday with the difficulties that come with having a disabled child: medical equipment, doctor’s visits, wheelchair maneuvering, accessible parking, accessible buildings, accessible bathrooms, and waiting. Waiting for the seizure that will kill their daughter. Wondering if this will be the day. They are traumatized.

ptsd-parents-cannabis

Sebastien Cotte and his wife, Annett, were awaiting the birth of their first child, a son, Jagger. The pregnancy and birth left them with a seemingly perfect, bouncing baby boy. At 3 months, there were some cardiac flags but at 11 months old, the nightmarish diagnosis came, mitochondrial disease. Their beautiful son, who they thought was healthy, would never, ever be healthy. At 13 months old, Jagger was diagnosed with Leigh’s disease, the terminal, incurable form of mitochondrial disease. Jagger is six years old now and the family has shifted mentally to quality of life, not quantity. “Even when I am across the country on business, in a hotel room by myself, sometimes, I hear Jagger’s monitors go off,” said Sebastien emotionally, “it wakes me from my sleep often. I think I hear the beeps and alarms from his monitors. I hear the ambulance sirens. When he is not even there, I’m not even home. It takes me to dark, sad places mentally and emotionally. Truthfully, it is exhausting. We are waiting for our greatest tragedy, the loss of our child, and watching him decline everyday.”

ptsd-parents-cannabis

There’s an adrenaline rush that comes naturally to people when there is an accident, injury or life-threatening circumstance. When it involves you or someone you care about, that jolt is more dramatic, more impactful and certainly burns a memory in your brain and in your heart, and it is exhausting. Parents who experience the roller coaster of emotions that comes with an ill child, sometimes become numb, or “colder”, they are traumatized.

ptsd-parents-cannabis

Many, if not most, parents of children who are chronically or terminally ill suffer from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Levels of anxiety and stress are greatly increased and according to J.J. Spangenberg MA (Psych), MA (Clin Psych); D. Phil & N. Lalkhen MA (Clin Psych) who examined the psychosocial impacts on families of children with epilepsy. Their conclusion was:
“Childhood epilepsy has serious and far-reaching psychosocial sequelae for the patient and his/her family. Witnessing a seizure in one’s young child, especially a tonic-clonic seizure, can be one of the most anxiety-provoking experiences for a parent. It usually leads to feelings of helplessness and fear and often results in overprotection or overindulgence of the child…. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy develop, leading to further loss of self-esteem. Due to their anxious withdrawal from others, parents risk increasing isolation and loss of social support. Parents may grieve the loss of a “normal” child and this bereavement process may become pathological. Higher divorce rates have been reported among parents of children with epilepsy than in the general population.”

There are different dynamics for parents of children with chronic or terminal illnesses versus parents of healthy children who unexpectedly experience the death of their child. But both losses are significant and traumatic enough to cause damage, it is the most devastating loss a person can live through. Weeks, months in the hospital; years of round-the-clock care, and worry or the sudden loss of the most precious thing in the world to them – it can change a person. It can create a PTSD parent.

ptsd-parents-cannabis

Support and information for non-veteran PTSD patients, specifically parents of chronically and terminally ill children, is almost nonexistent. Parents don’t want to admit they are damaged, traumatized because of the circumstances, some don’t even realize what it is, they just know “it” is there and they feel that nothing will be the same again. It is a treacherous road that patients with PTSD travel daily, but the support aspects for this demographic of PTSD patients is minimal at best.

Focusing on positive progress or positive anything is helpful, but having a support network of other people, who can relate, seems to be essential. Parents of sick kids, really sick kids, need to feel that they are not alone, that they are traumatized, but it will be alright, because it could always be worse.

Veteran Facing Life for Cannabis Gets No Jail After Public Outcry

Veteran Facing Life for Cannabis Gets No Jail After Public Outcry

The state of Oklahoma was pursuing life in prison against an honorably discharged Marine who served his country for a decade.

“It is my right to choose the safest, most effective treatment for my PTSD and pain…pills or plant, it is what I fought for, it is what America stands for,”

said Kris Lewandowski, a combat Marine veteran who served three tours overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and off the coast of Somalia. But the life of this veteran and his family for the past 3 years, “has been nothing short of hell” over a plant. Lewandowski, obviously shaken, recalls the misery,

“It has been harder on me psychologically and emotionally than even my deployments were. I am in America but I am fighting for my rights, my freedom…over a plant. Cannabis saved my life. It’s my medicine. I believe in my soul that I have earned the right to consume a plant in America, to choose my medicine.”

kris-lewandowski-trial

Kris was set for trial in Lawton, Oklahoma on May 30, 2017. He was facing ten years to life in prison for growing 6 cannabis plants to treat his PTSD and combat injuries after the pharmaceuticals had failed him. When a MassRoots blog detailing the case went viral after it’s May 18th publishing, the prosecutors for the case finally changed their position and offered a plea deal that meant no jail, and a deferred sentence. Kris would remain a veteran, not become a felon. The blog reached the masses, and the masses mattered, it made “the” difference. People lept into action, sharing the blog, tweeting, emailing, and calling…in droves.

“Every case needs media attention. It literally makes all the difference. In three years they hadn’t thrown out any deals at all. They [the prosecutors] told us so many times there would never be a deal. Right before trial, after that blog went viral, we get a plea offer with no jail. After we get a large media push? That is no coincidence, but it was certainly magical,”

said Kris’s wife, Whitney Lewandowski, “That exposure was exactly what made the state rethink this case and their ‘war on Kris’. The post went viral and they started throwing out deals and trying to make something work to make it go away. It wasn’t a dismissal, but it was a victory. The day has finally arrived, it feels like I’m in a dream. This nightmare is finally over. Our future is bright again. I am humbled by the outpouring of love and support we got over the years. We are blessed with an amazing family, and group of friends who stuck by us at our bleakest time. Supporters and strangers who never turned their backs on us. Some days they were all that got us through.”

kris-lewandowski-trial

It’s harder than ever to be heard above the “noise” of the world. Even though the internet and social media make it easier, it is still like screaming during a concert hoping the artist on stage hears you over the thousands of other fans trying to get their attention, and actually hear them sing.

When people are fighting for their lives and want their voices to be heard. Any case needs to get media attention, because the right media attention reaches the masses. That means their case has a better chance of garnering support and getting the attention needed to put pressure on prosecutors to do the right thing, to stop injustice, and to make plea deals with no jail and deferred sentences if dismissal is not an option.

Kristoffer Lewandowski served 10 years in the United States Marine Corps and was a member of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. PTSD and combat injuries to his shoulder and back were a constant battle after his deployments and worsened over the years. The numerous daily prescribed pharmaceuticals weren’t helping, his pain was becoming unmanageable and the pills were causing liver damage, so they gave him another prescription.

He became addicted to the legally prescribed pills, he became eruptive, depressed, angry and physically was starting to show signs of the pharmaceutical damage. He was unable to serve the Corps as he had done so faithfully before. “I felt broken. I didn’t feel like a soldier anymore. It was devastating. I started trying to wean off some of the pills, I was desperate, but the withdrawals were vicious. It was a ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ situation, but the liver damage was killing me, the pills were changing me” said a tearful Lewandowski.

kris-lewandowski-trial

He was a Marine instructor at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and was processing for medical retirement when, on June 1, 2014, after a PTSD flair up, no effective medicine, withdrawals from antidepressants and a postpartum Whitney, a heated argument broke out and escalated into screams that had neighbors calling in a domestic dispute.

The police arrived, the search found six cannabis plants and the almost three year nightmare began. But this time, the nightmare was temporary and the story has a happy ending, even in Oklahoma, where laws against cannabis patients and consumers are some of the harshest in the US.

Lewandowski’s plea hearing was held Friday, May 26, 2017, at the Comanche County Courthouse in Lawton, Oklahoma, and for the first time in their three year ordeal, the prosecutors and the DA were offering Kris Lewandowski a no jail, deferred sentence deal, no felony. The Marine veteran was treated with regard rather than disdain in the Judge Emmitt Tayloe courtroom. The DA didn’t have degrading remarks or sneering looks for Lewandowski as he had experienced before, it was a mutually beneficial resolve for the court and the defendant, an example of how our system should and could be.

But it took three years and an alignment of stars to get an acceptable plea deal that didn’t include jail, felony or both. A legal team from across the US who dedicated to representing him for little or no cost; fellow veterans offering support; friends and family standing by them; people and organizations raising funds; supporters and activists dedicating time and money to spreading the word about the case; and a blog that was shared thousands of times in the first 24 hours it was published. It was a rare moment most defendants in cannabis cases will never have.

kris-lewandowski-trial

This case is important for veterans, as well as all cannabis patients. It sets a precedent and can help others convince leaders of the injustice of prosecuting cannabis patients. “This case demonstrates that we can, by working together, change cannabis policy and perception,” said Matthew Pappas, a California-based attorney who has been working on Lewandowski’s case since 2014, “Even in states that continue to persecute patients and cling tight to unjust, outdated laws.”

Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist said, “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” For three years, Lewandowski’s case has brought a new face to cannabis patients and veterans that choose a plant over pills to treat their PTSD and service related injuries. It may not have been “the” world but it was “their world” and if it can happen to Kris, it can happen to any veteran.

Until US laws catch up with logic and science regarding the cannabis plant, scenarios like this will become more and more common. “Our efforts to keep Kris out of jail were successful because so many people came together effectively on his behalf,” said his Oklahoma-based attorney, Thomas Hurley.

“If we unite towards a common goal, we can literally move mountains,” said Lewandowski, who is now considering a run for California Congress, “In this three-year plight, my wife and family and freedom were at stake. I almost lost all that I hold most dear. We will win this war. This attack on citizens and soldiers simply trying to heal themselves. United…together, we will prevail. Divided, our battle is much more difficult and the end result unsure.” He and his wife, Whitney, are the State Co-Chairs for the American Medical Refugees Foundation, a nonprofit in Colorado and are both active in the Weed for Warriors Project. Their goal is help other veterans, patients and consumers have legal access to cannabis medicine and support for their injury, illness or disease.

Michael Minardi, a Florida-based attorney who has been helping with the case thinks this is only the beginning, and stresses the importance of unity, “Stand by your fellow soldiers who are being prosecuted for using cannabis medicine. Talk to your legislators, your representatives, your Senators, local and federal. Run for office and educate people to the benefits of medical cannabis and we will see veteran suicide decline. We owe a debt of gratitude to all veterans, servicemen and women. I will continue to fight for and serve veterans’ and all American citizens’ rights to use cannabis as medicine.”

kris-lewandowski-trial

Memorial Day Blues: Better with Green

Memorial Day Blues: Better with Green

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May to honor fallen service men and women. It is an emotional time of year for people who have lost someone they love who served our country. This loss can lead to depression, anxiety, stress, and those things can lead to a search for relief.

Doctors often prescribe antidepressants and the most common antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In comparison to other kinds of medications to treat depression, SSRIs are considered to be the less harmful, with fewer side effects, but they come at a cost. Literally.Pharmaceutical medications and prescriptions to treat depression can range from $30 to hundreds of dollars. But the greater cost may be the side effects that go hand-in-hand with the legal and potentially lethal pharmaceuticals.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved these SSRIs to treat depression:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)
  • Fluvoxamine, an SSRI that’s approved by the FDA to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, is sometimes used to treat depression.

Common side effects of SSRIs include insomnia, nervousness, agitation or restlessness, nausea, headache, sexual problems such as reduced sexual desire, among others. Often antidepressants lead to the “among others” which includes increased depression and suicidal or homicidal thoughts according to several patients who have opted to stop the pharmaceuticals that were supposed to help them.

“The VA doctors told me that it [the pharmaceuticals] was going to make us OK. But the pills don’t make us OK. I was on 16 pills day for 8 years, “

said Dave Gambrell, a United States Army veteran.

“I was a young husband, and the antidepressants for my PTSD weren’t working that well, and they had side effects that hit my marriage and my pride. I became impotent on the prescribed pills that didn’t really work to stop my depression, which cause another level of depression. So the doctors prescribed something for that, I was on viagra as a 26 year old to offset the side effects of the pills they gave me. It started causing other problems physically, constipation, so there was a pill for that. If I said the antidepressants weren’t working, they would just increase the dosage, or throw in another. It was a rollercoaster ride that was making me sick and I couldn’t get off the ride. I became addicted and abused the pharmaceuticals.”

Memorial Day is one of the most suicidal times of the year for veterans. Those who survived left with “survivor’s guilt” and terrifying images that haunt them day and night. “No matter how much I took, it didn’t get better. I was addicted to something that was destroying me, that the doctors who were supposed to help save me, gave to me. I felt there was no out. I attempted to take my life in 2008 and again in 2009. I just wanted to numb myself. I wanted to escape the images of my service brothers and sisters, to get away,” Gambrell said through tears.

“Since I have been off the pills, and taking cannabis medicine, I don’t have the physical issues at all that the pharmaceuticals caused. I have been able to socially interact better, I don’t have the vicious nightmares and visions that I did. I am more active in my community and with my family, my children. I can actually help organize planting flags at the cemetery on Memorial Day.”

Veterans need to feel productive, important, often they need a mission to keep them focused on their lives as veterans and not soldiers. Throwing back a bottle or popping pills has become a “go-to” among many veterans to kill the pain, to give them numbness that lets them make it through another day. It is an epidemic that takes almost two dozen servicemen and women a day in the US.

The most impactful loss for Gambrell, is the story of Captain Kimberly Hampton, America’s first female combat pilot killed in action. Dave served under Cpt. Hampton, and is close with the family, “It nevers gets any easier, the pain never goes away. There is only enduring the pain. At least the plant [cannabis] makes it tolerable, liveable. I can turn those bad thoughts into good about Kim when I am consuming cannabis. On the pills, I would go to dark places, scary places, “ said Gambrell.

Below are suggestions collected from veterans like Gambrell for remembering those lost this Memorial Day:

  1. Don’t wish me a Happy Memorial day – there’s nothing happy about brave men and women dying
  2. Its not a holiday or a sale, it’s a day of remembrance
  3. Visit your local Cemetery and pay your respects to those brave men and women who’ve given their lives for our freedom.
  4. Let’s talk about one of the 6828 brave men and women who gave their lives during combat operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. Not to mention the countless others that we remember who’ve perished in conflicts before our time. Let’s talk about my good friend Cpt. Kimberly Hampton, daughter of Ann Lewis Hampton and Dale Hampton. Let us pray for them this weekend. Kimberly paid the ultimate sacrifice!
  5. Say a prayer and thank God for the men and women who are no longer here
  6. DO NOT “Thank” a living Veteran for his/her service… they’ll get honored on Veterans Day in November.
  7. This is time to remember that the true price of freedom is spent in the lives that defend it. Honor our brothers and sisters that have given the last full measure to secure our freedoms.

Gambrell’s story isn’t uncommon in the veteran community. He is among many who have chosen to combat their PTSD with an all natural, nonlethal option, cannabis. Certainly, it should be the right of those who have served their country to choose a plant over pills. Whatever works, whatever makes our veterans healthier and happier, especially around emotional holidays, should be the first line of defense and not their last, desperate option.

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