Vets in South Carolina Push for Medical Pot

A number of military veterans in South Carolina are pushing lawmakers in the state to legalize medical marijuana. 

Local news station WACH reports this week on the group of vets, who “say it needs to be a top priority for lawmakers when they return to the state house in January after several proposals were stopped in their tracks earlier this year.”

“No one has died from an overdose with cannabis ever,” Cody Callarman, a former member of the Marine corps, told the news station. “For me, I can say, it definitely helps me to go to sleep and stay sleep and alleviate a lot of nightmares.”

“I say this is the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and we were the brave ones. We should have our choice of medical treatment,” Callarman added.

Another veteran named Robert Leheup told the station that the “idea of us not allowing veterans to have access to these tools is something that we need to remedy immediately.”

“It’s definitely one of those things that if you use it, along with counseling for example, it has the potential to have profound impacts,” Leheup told the station. 

Lawmakers in South Carolina considered a medical cannabis bill earlier this year. The legislation won approval in the state Senate, but in May, it was voted down in the state House of Representatives

The sponsor of the bill, Republican state Sen. Tom Davis, has been in the vanguard of the effort to legalize medical cannabis treatment in the state for years. 

“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis said in January. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

After the legislation was approved in the state Senate in February, Davis commended his colleagues. 

“Even those that were opposed to the bill, I mean, they could’ve just been opposed. They could’ve ranted against it, they could’ve tried to delay things. They didn’t. They expressed their concerns, but what they then did is dug in and tried to make the bill better. And so, what you saw over the last three weeks is what’s supposed to happen in a representative democracy,” Davis said at the time.

But in May, Davis’s bill was rejected by his counterparts in the state House of Representatives by a vote of 59-55.

“We suffered a setback procedurally in the House today,” Davis said at the time. “I can’t cry about it. I can’t pout about it. I can’t come back and lash out and try to hurt other people’s bills. That’s not productive. I just need to find out a way to get this thing on the merits up or down in the House and that’s what I’m going to be working on.”

Should lawmakers take up the proposal in the upcoming session, there will be opposition.

Local news station WACH quoted state House Rep. Vic Dabney, a veteran himself, who said he intends to oppose the next legislation.

“I know a lot of veterans that are not sitting down eating gummy bears laced with cannabis,” Dabney told the station. “We’ve got enough drugged up people in America as it is.”

“It was going to be another government program and a huge boondoggle where you’d have more than 400 dispensaries across the state,” Dabney added. “That was further reasons for me to vote against it.”

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Senators Cory Booker, Rand Paul Introduce Psychedelics Bill

A bipartisan duo of U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify breakthrough therapies such as the psychedelics psilocybin and MDMA to ease access for patients and streamline research into the promising drugs. The bill, titled the Breakthrough Therapies Act, was introduced by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky.

After introducing the legislation, the senators noted that the psychedelics MDMA and psilocybin, both Schedule I drugs, have in recent years shown great promise as treatments for a range of mental health conditions including treatment-resistant suicidal depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use disorders. Preliminary research into the compounds has been so encouraging that the Food and Drug Administration has recently classified both MDMA- and psilocybin-assisted therapies as “breakthrough therapies,” a designation signifying that they demonstrate substantial improvement over any currently available treatments.

“Recent studies suggest that some Schedule I substances such as MDMA and psilocybin could represent an enormous advancement for the treatment of severe post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and addiction,” Booker said in a statement from the senator’s office on Thursday. “Unfortunately, regulatory red tape and a series of bureaucratic hurdles involved in studying Schedule I substances impedes critical research on these and other promising Schedule I compounds. This bill reduces these unreasonably burdensome rules and regulations that delay or prevent researchers from studying – and patients from accessing – this entire class of potential medicines.”

Bill Requires DEA To Reschedule Breakthrough Therapies

If passed into law, the Breakthrough Therapies Act would require the DEA to make the findings necessary to transfer breakthrough therapies involving Schedule I substances such as MDMA and psilocybin from Schedule I to Schedule II under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The lawmakers maintain that the legislation “could help facilitate a phased roll-out of these potentially lifesaving therapies via FDA-approved Expanded Access pilot programs.” The bill would also remove federal regulations that impede research into compounds that have been listed as Schedule I substances despite their potential to save lives, including drugs classified as breakthrough therapies by the FDA.

“I’m proud to co-lead this legislation with Sen. Booker that would streamline the registration process for breakthrough therapies currently restricted by outdated drug classifications,” said Paul. “This bill will make it easier for researchers to conduct studies that can lead to breakthrough therapies to treat patients battling serious and life-threatening conditions.”

Martin R. Steele, a retired United States Marine Corps lieutenant general and the CEO of the nonprofit Reason for Hope, leads the Veteran Mental Health Leadership Coalition, a group advocating for broader access to psychedelic therapies for U.S. military veterans. In a letter from the two groups, he called on lawmakers to approve the legislation introduced by Booker and Paul on Thursday.

“We urge Congress to swiftly pass the Breakthrough Therapies Act, which responsibly reduces the barriers to research and limited access of potentially life-saving treatments like MDMA- and psilocybin-assisted therapy,” said Steele. “Veterans should not be forced (nor should anyone else) to leave the country – at great expense – to access breakthrough therapies that can be safely provided and further studied in real-world settings here at home.”

The letter was cosigned by nearly two dozen veterans services and mental health advocacy organizations including Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), Black Therapists Rock, The Hope Project, and others.

“We believe the Breakthrough Therapies Act is the tip of the spear in our fight to ensure that Special Operations Veterans have access to the most advanced and effective medical treatments in the world,” said Daniel Elkins, Special Operations Association of America founder and a member of the Moral Compass Federation. “The Breakthrough Therapies Act will ensure Special Operations Forces receive the care they deserve from the country they fought for.”

Noting the bipartisan nature of the legislation, Shane Pennington, an attorney at the psychedelics and cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, said that “this is a fantastic bill that everyone should support regardless of political affiliation.” 

“Drugs that FDA has given breakthrough therapy designation shouldn’t be in schedule I, and vets (and others) shouldn’t have to go to other countries to get them,” Pennington wrote in an email to High Times. I applaud Senators Booker and Paul for this one.”

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Air Force Cannabis Policy May Ease for Recruits

In a move that reflects the continuing successful efforts to legalize cannabis across the country, U.S. Air Force officials recently revealed that they’re considering easing the cannabis policy for recruits entering the service. If the new policy is adopted, recruits joining the Air Force and the U.S. Space Force, the nation’s newest branch of the military, may be able to receive a waiver if they test positive for marijuana when reporting for duty.

All branches of the military forbid service women and men from using cannabis in any form, including hemp CBD. However, each branch sets its own policy for recruits who use cannabis before they enlist and enter the service. Under the proposed policy change, those who test positive for using marijuana could be granted a waiver if the Air Force believes the recruit will act in good faith and refrain from using cannabis in the future.

Recruiting head Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas told Air Force Times in a recent interview that his staff is exploring the option of granting waivers to otherwise qualified recruits who test positive for THC, the cannabinoid largely responsible for the high associated with marijuana, at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS), the facilities where recruits report when they first enter the service.

“If applicants test positive for THC when they go to the MEPS, they’re permanently barred from entering the Air Force or the Space Force,” Thomas said, explaining the current Air Force policy. “But as more states legalize cannabis, there is an increased prevalence of THC-positive applicants.”

Thomas said the proposed change reflects the changing attitudes about cannabis in the United States, where 37 states have legalized medical marijuana and 19 have passed legislation to end the prohibition of recreational cannabis.

“We have to be realistic today,” Thomas said. “We need to exercise common sense.”

Different Policies for Each Branch of the Military

The Air Force is not the first branch of the military to ease its policy on recruits who test positive for marijuana use. Last year, the Navy initiated a two-year pilot program scheduled to run until April 2023 that allows otherwise qualified applicants who test positive for cannabis at MEPS to receive a waiver to return for boot camp after a 90-day waiting period. The U.S. Army has a similar policy, granting a waiver to enter basic training following a 90-day waiting period to recruits who test positive for THC at MEPS. A second positive test, however, leads to permanent disqualification. The Marine Corps allows recruits who test positive for THC to request a waiver that overrides their disqualification and, if approved, allows them to return to MEPS after 45 days.

Nathalie Grogan, who studies military personnel at the Center for a New American Security, said that amending the rules on cannabis use could provide new opportunities for young American men, up to one-third of whom may have past criminal conduct that currently disqualifies them from service.

“Over-policing of growing minority populations and some states’ legalization of marijuana may be leading to an untenable trajectory if the standards remain unchanged,” Grogan said, adding that service eligibility requirements are becoming part of the larger conversation around the impact of the War on Drugs on communities of color. In every state in the nation, Blacks are more likely than white people to be arrested for a marijuana-related offense, despite studies that show relatively equal rates of cannabis use among the two groups.

“The military now bars from service most candidates with a significant criminal record or documented history of drug use. At the same time, arrests and drug use are increasing among American youth,” Grogan said. “Arrest rates are higher in low-income communities and communities of color.”

Sean Kiernan, the CEO of Weed for Warriors, a California group that works to ensure access to medical marijuana for veterans, said that the decision to ease cannabis restrictions for Air Force and Space Force is consistent with similar pressure to attract and retain quality personnel in the private sector.

“A strong labor market and increased use of cannabis amongst that labor force is forcing more relaxed corporate views on cannabis due to the worker shortage. The all-voluntary military force is no exception to this phenomenon as failures to meet recruiting goals always lead to looser standards.  In this case, it’s cannabis that is benefiting,” Kiernan wrote in a message to Cannabis Now. “It’s simply untenable for corporate America, let alone the Department of Defense to continue its absolute prohibition of cannabis use unless it wants to starve its employee ranks due to attrition from zero-tolerance cannabis policies. In America, ‘it’s the economy, stupid.’”

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New Study Shows Evidence That Low-Dose THC Could Help Treat Veteran PTSD

A study published in the journal Neuropharmacology by researchers from Wayne State University showed evidence of low doses of THC helping treat those who suffer from PTSD. The study, officially named “Cannabinoid modulation of brain activation during volitional regulation of negative affect in trauma-exposed adults,” aimed to learn more about how THC affects certain parts of the brain.

Many studies on the effects of cannabis and PTSD have come before but this one is one of the first to explore how THC affects the corticolimbic brain activation. “Prior research among healthy subjects suggests that an acute, low dose of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could attenuate the neurophysiological discrepancies that exist between individuals with and without PTSD during tasks of emotional processing; however, the effect of an acute, low dose of THC on corticolimbic activity during emotion regulation among individuals with PTSD has not yet been studied,” researchers wrote in their abstract.

This was a double-blind study that featured 51 participants; each one was given either a 7.5 mg THC capsule or a placebo. Once administered, participants were instructed to perform tasks that utilized their cognitive reappraisal, or altering negative thought patterns. “Cognitive reappraisal is one therapeutic emotion regulation strategy that has been widely studied among individuals with mood and anxiety disorders, and numerous differences in brain activation patterns have been shown between individuals with and without PTSD during tasks of cognitive reappraisal,” researchers wrote.

Participants were scanned by an FMRI machine, and researchers asked questions about their emotions. Researchers found that the brain activity of those consuming THC were different than the placebo group, specifically in the angular gyrus (which is related to functions such as attention or spatial cognition) and posterior cingulate cortex (related to conditions such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury). “Together these findings suggest that THC may prove to be a beneficial pharmacological adjunct to cognitive reappraisal therapy in the treatment of PTSD,” researchers concluded.

According to a post by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on June 15, veterans are more likely to commit suicide due to the devastating situations they encounter during their military service. “While anyone can experience suicide risks, certain groups have substantially higher rates of suicide than the general U.S. population. Veterans bear a disproportionate but preventable burden,” the CDC wrote. “Tragically, out of the 130 suicides per day in 2019, 17 of those lives lost were veterans. In 2019, among the average 17.2 Veteran suicides per day, an estimated 6.8 suicides per day were among those with [Veteran Health Administration] (VHA) encounters in 2018 or 2019, whereas 10.4 per day were among Veterans with no VHA encounter in 2018 or 2019. Veteran suicide-related deaths are also increasing at a greater rate than that of the general U.S. population. From 2001 to 2019, the rate of suicide among Veterans increased nearly 36% relative to an increase of 30% in the general population.”

While the CDC is striving to work with organizations to provide support to veterans, cannabis has been proven to be a useful aid in treating the many conditions that veterans suffer from, post-military service.

Major organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) announced earlier this year that it was granted $12.9 million to study cannabis and PTSD. Longtime veteran and cannabis researcher, Dr. Sue Sisley, explained how important it is that evidence be built up in favor of cannabis and PTSD treatments for veterans. Suicide among veterans is an urgent public health crisis, but it’s solvable if we invest in researching new treatments for pain, depression, and PTSD,” said Sisley. “This grant enables more rigorous study, overseen by the FDA, which may lead to cannabis flower becoming prescribable medicine someday. Veterans are demanding objective cannabis drug development research, and the state of Michigan is fulfilling our collective obligation to our beloved Veteran community.”

Other researchers are working on studies that examine how cannabis can benefit PTSD symptoms as well. One particular study found that long term consumption of cannabis can cause a reduction in symptoms over time.

In June, Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers spoke up about how psychedelics such as MDMA and psilocybin could also be effective for treatment as well.

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Spark Up: How to Celebrate the 4th of July with Cannabis

Wherever you’re at with your feelings on the U.S. this month—be it joy around the concept of puff, puff passing freely in your state, or frustration with recent federal events—we have you covered. Here are a few ways to celebrate the holiday, whether that means giving back in ways that feel meaningful to you or having fun and staying high

Give Back to Veterans in Cannabis 

The fourth is a great day to remember those who have served in the armed forces. Veterans are at a disproportionate risk for conditions like PTSD, and our country doesn’t always do the best job of taking care of our Veterans. This year for the fourth, you can show your support by purchasing from brands like Kill Cliff, a CBD energy drink company founded by a Navy Seal, or Patriot Supreme, a brand that gives back by providing CBD edibles to veterans in need through their Hero Program.  

Support Charities That Celebrate Freedom

If you’re upset over the lack of healthcare access implied by the Roe v. Wade decision being overturned, we completely get it if you’re not in the headspace to celebrate. But you can do more than just sit at home and sulk, passing up the potato salad and fireworks as a matter of protest. Give back to organizations like Planned Parenthood that are standing up for reproductive rights and individual freedom. Put your day off to good use, and make a donation!

Blaze While You Grill 

It’s the iconic 4th of July picture we all have blazed into our brain: someone in dad mode, with a beer in hand, grilling for the whole family. Shake things up a little this year and use an infused oil on your grill brush. If you’re trying to stay away from booze, reach for a nice, cold THC beverage instead. Just make sure to always consume responsibly, especially around severe heat!  

Micro- or Macrodose During Fireworks 

Even if you’re not a big patriot or outdoors person and could do without most of it, everyone loves a good firework! There’s something about the loud sounds and bright colors that release tension, and if you’re in a major city, the big fireworks shows are always gorgeous and captivating. 

Taking a few edibles will make the light shows pop off even more. Of course, always consume safely, and only go this route if you’re safely watching a show put on by friends or your local municipality, not if you’re setting them off yourself. If you’re a newbie, try microdosing. Some edibles these days come in doses as small as 1 mg. If you’re more of a seasoned pro, dive right into the deep end with 1000 mg, and watch the colors explode! 

Infuse Your Fourth of July Foods 

For some, myself included, no matter where you are mentally when it comes to the 4th of July, the best part is the food. As someone born and raised in Virginia, BBQ and potato salad literally make the day what it is, and I wouldn’t want to celebrate without my favorite goodies. This year, make this a little more spicy with some infused goodness for the 4th. You can either purchase infused oil to grill with or butter, mayonnaise, or cheese to cook with, or make your own if you have the materials and are in the mood for a challenge. 

Whatever you do for the 4th of July this year, make sure to keep it stoney and chill, and if the spirit moves you, use the holiday as a chance to give back to those who help fight for freedom and justice. 

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Veterans Affairs Researchers Embrace Psychedelics for Military Vets

According to The New York Times, the last time that Veterans Affairs (VA) explored psychedelics as a medical treatment was in 1963. This was around the same time that the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army was testing LSD as a way to “mind-control” enemies. Many decades later, these four researchers are bridging the gap between veteran mental health and psychedelic-assisted therapy. These studies are being conducted by VA clinicians, and the results could lead the way to more studies in the future.

Dr. Shannon Remick, is conducting a study with 10 veterans in a VA clinic in Loma Linda, California. She became one of the first doctors since the 1960s to be allowed to use psychedelics as a treatment in that clinic, which is overseeing the progress of combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Each volunteer will experience three sessions using MDMA as a way to explore their condition, and begin each session with calming activities (such as breathing exercises or poem readings). Sessions are led by the patient, but assisted through the process with the help of a therapist who mainly listens, rather than directs.

“We are alongside and with the patient as they are exploring a kind of excavation site,” Dr. Remick said. “Ultimately, it’s not for us to point and say, ‘Hey, look at that,’ because what I’m seeing may not be the same from their angle.”

Dr. Rachel Yehuda actually delayed her retirement to dedicate herself to psychedelic-assisted therapy. She sought out permission to help PTSD sufferers with MDMA, and began the study earlier this year in January. Her study is examining the effects of MDMA on PTSD patients, specifically to determine whether two or three sessions are more beneficial overall.

Yehuda herself participated in an MDMA trip in 2019 for therapist training. “It made me really understand what it is you’re supposed to be doing in psychotherapy,” Dr. Yehuda said. “I’ve never quite understood what it means to have a breakthrough.” She also noted the importance of doing such a process with “the right therapists.”

Dr. Leslie Morland has over two decades worth of experience with PTSD therapies, and is also exploring how MDMA could help veterans after they return home from duty—specifically as a way to make couples therapy more successful. Her clinical study is expected to begin at the end of 2022, and will study eight participants and their respective partners in San Diego.

“A lot of our military learn to emotionally disconnect in order to be effective in combat,” Dr. Morland said. “And then we’re bringing them back and saying: Now we need you to open up with our talk therapy.” With the help of MDMA, Morland hopes to see an increase in bonding and empathy in her patients. “How do they work together to really sustain the improvements that have been achieved in therapy?”

Finally, Dr. Christopher Stauffer has previously explored the effectiveness of psilocybin as a way to combat substance abuse. One of his studies will review how psilocybin can assist 30 veterans who are addicted to methamphetamine. Half of them will receive conventional therapy plus two psilocybin therapies, and the other half will only receive conventional therapy.

Another study led by Stauffer will review how MDMA can help group therapy sessions for veterans. “[MDMA is] brand-new to a lot of people and yet it’s been around longer than most of our psychiatric medications have been around,” Dr. Stauffer said. “But it feels like we’re approaching it this time with a lot more knowledge and a lot of more rigorous research practices that didn’t really exist back in the ’50s and ’60s.”

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Why THC contributes anxiety in veterans with PTSD

A study funded by the Dutch Ministry of Defense analyzed endocannabinoid levels in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. ECS tone was neutral in participants and THC conversely contributed to anxiety, a symptom of PTSD, in veterans at rest. Only relaxed participants were tested in the study, though. No veterans were under stress during the study. […]

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Coping with Cannabis: A Soldier’s Experience with PTSD

“One of the difficulties with post-traumatic stress disorder is that the readiness or need for treatment may emerge years after the trauma. Therefore, veterans and their families need long-term treatment options and long-term access to treatment, even if symptoms are not present at their time of discharge.” -William H. Braun, from Veteran’s for Medical Marijuana

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) wreaks misery on soldiers and families. Military training, combat experience and traumatic events like sexual abuse often radically change cognitive functioning. Unable to process peacetime situations without infusing combat conditioned responses, PTSD sufferers live chaotic, often isolated lives. Approximately 6500 veterans and 349 active service members committed suicide in 2012. The United States Veterans’ Administration (VA) is tasked with providing medical care for all honorably discharged veterans. This includes some psychological care.

A veteran with PTSD faces life and career altering choices. The VA does not dissuade this notion, advising on their website. “You may think that avoiding your PTSD is critical to keeping your job. But if your PTSD symptoms are getting in the way of doing your duties, it is better to deal with them before they hurt your military career. Getting help for PTSD is problem solving.”

The VA outlines several treatments, “cognitive processing, prolonged exposure treatment, mindfulness practice” to name a few, but provides more extensive information for psychiatrists prescribing Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants and other prescription drugs. “The only two FDA approved medications for the treatment of PTSD are sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil). All other medication uses are off label, though there are differing levels of evidence supporting their use…” In a series of videos linked to the site, Psychiatrist Matthew J. Friedman of the VA National Center for PTSD explains that his patients “usually use these medications indefinitely.”

“David” is a former Army Corporal 1st Cavalry who served two terms in Iraq as a chaplain’s assistant in a 900 troop infantry unit. He started suffering from night terrors during basic training after performing sleep deprivation exercises. “I’m dead asleep, having a nightmare. They call me back. I try to explain to them that my time is done. Then I’m in Iraq and it’s hitting the fan and I can’t find my weapon! I don’t remember the rest, but if someone comes into my room or makes the slightest noise, I jump up in the fighting position, screaming, cursing, telling them that I am going to rip them in half. I’ve punched people, thrown stuff. My brother has kicked my ass my entire life, whenever it happens he’s terrified.”

Before enlisting, David was a teetotaling Protestant and devout believer in “George Bush, the War in Iraq, all of it.” Responsible for protecting unarmed rabbis, priests, imams and monks as they performed their duties, he screened soldiers seeking spiritual advice to make sure they weren’t a threat. “They told me all the stories, so I know how every one of their buddies died in detail. Then I would prepare their memorial services.” With the clergy’s help, David implemented a system to make sure those close to a fallen comrade didn’t sleep where they could see their friend’s empty bunk, a common trigger for night terrors. Many soldiers were simply “too far gone,” and referred to psychiatrists.

“More often than not, that’s the route that ends up happening. These people cannot handle it. They were not right for the situation. They thought they wanted to kill people without having any idea what that means. And then the reality bomb hit them so hard that they just couldn’t recover from it.”

For David, healing from the trauma of seeing friends grotesquely killed, sexual harassment from a senior officer, a broken engagement during his first tour, and the shock that George Bush was “just a spokesman for the oil industry” was found primarily through frequent sessions “talking for hours with a Rabbinical scholar while smoking joints.” After a few months processing the theological, political and personal ramifications of the war this way, he realized his night terrors were becoming less frequent. “I wasn’t smoking every night, so I didn’t see a correlation that it was stopping the night terrors.”

Four years back in the US and still waking violently to the slightest sound, David “just couldn’t take it anymore” and sought help from the VA. He told a physician’s assistant that he suspected marijuana might be helping, but worried about side effects. “All the research I had done said it was safe. The guy was very casual, but he recommended that I stop using it because they had stuff that would do the trick.”

The assistant prescribed diphenhydramine (Benadryl), an allergy and sleep aid, and “some blood pressure pills to make my heart slow down and stop the nightmares.” The treatment didn’t stop the problem and left him groggy and dysfunctional in the morning. “Benadryl hazes you, whereas weed, especially Sativa, makes me think clearer.”

David worries that he might “start liking marijuana too much and abuse it,” but prefers to take that risk over a lifetime experimenting with prescription medications. “I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. I am completely 100 percent sure that marijuana cured my night terrors. My brain operates at a higher level than normal about my surroundings and I think about things in a much more peaceful way. My roommates can walk into my room now when I’m asleep and I’m like, “Hey, Dude.”

Years of persistent lobbying by the advocacy group Veterans for Medical Marijuana goaded the US Veteran’s Administration to clarify its stance in a January 2011 memo. “VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in state marijuana programs from also participating in clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals. Patients participating in state marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services. If a patient reports participation in a state marijuana program to a member of the clinical staff, that information is entered into the ‘non-VA medication section’ of the patient’s electronic medical record.”

Currently, the medical establishment waits to see if specific molecules can be isolated from cannabis and used to treat specific symptoms. With new strains bred daily across a multi-billion dollar global industry, testing with scientific certainty is an elusive goal. Several small studies are currently being funded and undertaken by federal and private researchers. For veterans and those close to them experiencing PTSD, research into treatment opportunities is crucial to finding a path to recovery.

Experimenting with treatment for mental disorders is extremely dangerous. Cannabis Now does not advocate or repudiate any particular course of treatment, but all available studies have shown that talking to friends, loved ones and professionals about PTSD triggers is vital to recovery. Veterans for Medical Marijuana urges those seeking treatment to, “Be assertive, every veteran deserves any, and all, medical and/or psychological help.”

Looking for more resources?

United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center for PTSD
Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Medical Marijuana Research Page
PTSD Forum – Chat rooms, information, videos and music
American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Cannabis Drug Testing Partial Cause for U.S. Truck Driver Shortage

The American Trucking Association released a statement in October 2021, citing retiring driving veterans and lower wages as the partial cause for the shortage of more than 80,000 drivers. However, another cause for this shortage is being attributed to adult-use legalization and drivers testing positive for cannabis.

A March 2022 U.S. Department of Transportation summary report states that as of April 1, 2022, 10,276 commercial truck drivers tested positive for THC. (Although this is a significant decrease in numbers, compared to 31,085 violations in 2021 and 29,511 violations in 2020.) Cannabis leads the data as the highest positive drug tests for drivers, but this also includes data about drivers who test positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, oxymorphone and more.

The situation is especially difficult for drivers who consume because many of them travel through multiple states with varying approaches to legalization.

According to an article on Stacker, the Department of Transportation (DOT) Handbook: A Compliance for Guide Truck Drivers confirms that cannabis is still federally illegal. “While states may allow medical use of marijuana, federal laws and policy do not recognize any legitimate medical use of marijuana. Even if a state allows the use of marijuana, DOT regulations treat its use as the same as the use of any other illicit drug.”

The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) increased drug testing rates from 25% to 50% two years ago. “The new minimum annual percentage rate for random drug testing will be effective January 1, 2020. This change reflects the increased positive test rate and will result in an estimated $50 to $70 million increase in costs to the industry by requiring that more drivers be tested.” However, it also notes that random alcohol testing remained at 10%.

The FMCSA also states that medical cannabis is also not allowed with any noted exceptions. “Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), a person is not physically qualified to drive a CMV if he or she uses any Schedule I controlled substance such as marijuana,” it states. “Accordingly, a driver may not use marijuana even if is recommended by a licensed medical practitioner.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines five risk factors of being a truck long-haul truck driver, including obesity, smoking, low physical activity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Some of these common workplace conditions have been known to be treated with medical cannabis. In one study from December 2015, medical cannabis helped prevent obesity in mice. Some studies identified how cannabis can actually help treat nicotine addiction. Even a study from this past February showed evidence of how cannabis can help lower blood pressure in those who suffer from hypertension.

An April White House Fact Sheet states that trucking accounts for 72% of products delivered in the U.S., with a plan to assist and help expand trucking job opportunities. “Trucking costs grew more than 20 percent last year as a surge in demand for goods caused by the pandemic confronted a decline in trucking employment that preceded the pandemic,” the Fact Sheet states. “The low supply of drivers is driven by high turnover and low job quality. Turnover in trucking routinely averages 90 percent for some carriers and drivers spend about 40 percent of their workday waiting to load and unload goods—hours that are typically unpaid.”

While the White House’s focus on bettering the work lives of truckers across the country is a step in the right direction, there is a need to alter regulations to allow truckers to use cannabis. One of the efforts includes connecting veterans with trucking jobs, however, with the current state of military veterans seeking access to medical cannabis to treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, it would create another hurdle for them to overcome.

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American Steel

Before you ask, the answer is “yes.”

Cullen Raichart is aware his company’s name—GreenBroz—doesn’t sound particularly professional, and he’s entertained the idea of changing it plenty of times over the course of the brand’s decade-long existence. But instead of calling themselves Green Logistics Solutions Inc. or another combo of ambiguous, stuffy names, the CEO says he and his team of five engineers let their products speak for themselves.

The GreenBroz Rise-N-Sort system can process 360 pounds of cannabis per hour.

“So much of this business is word of mouth,” says the 53-year-old Las Vegas-based entrepreneur. “We’re in 39 countries and are well-established in both the US and Canada; so, I’d say we’ve done pretty well so far.”

“Pretty well” is an understatement, considering the company’s modest beginnings. Founded in Raichart’s hometown of San Diego in 2012, GreenBroz started as a grow house operation in his garage with a few friends, hence the casual-sounding name. But nobody’s questioning the corporate moniker now. The company operates a 50,000 square-foot warehouse in the northeast Vegas Valley next to the famed speedway that holds multiple NASCAR events each year.

The speedway is an appropriate neighbor considering how fast the company is expanding. According to Raichart, his business currently has 50 employees working across the country and made more than $14 million last year. He says his company has grown at least 20 percent every year since he left the duty-heavy California for Nevada back in 2019, a tax-friendly new home compared to its expensive neighboring state.

GreenBroz’ exponential growth is impressive even by industry standards, especially because the business hasn’t sold out to one of the mega-corporations known for swiping up dispensaries and cannabis firms by the dozens in recent years. And the man in charge says it’s all thanks to a unique technology that he’s fought tooth-and-nail to patent. 

The blades in action.

Some context is important here. Blades in popular commercial trimming machines usually take one of two shapes: octagon or square. Which means many cannabis buds end up crunched into the shape of a golf ball or a pinecone. In 2012, Raichart realized that the industry needed a more efficient and accurate trimmer than what was already widely available. More states were legalizing weed, and the industry standards of hand-trimming and subpar machine trimmers wouldn’t be enough to keep up with demand.

So, he gave up growing (“I wasn’t really good at it anyway”) and spent six months researching and developing his first prototype. Before long, the GreenBroz Alchemist was born. Featuring a pair of nonconcentric arc-shaped blades made from US steel, the Alchemist used almost entirely domestic-made components. Raichart secured a patent for the product, and business took off from there.

Kevin Bower joined the brand’s team as a mechanical engineer in 2016 and has played an integral part in improving the Alchemist into the company’s current portfolio of five combined trimmers and trichome extractors. Besides their accuracy, the machines are known to move among the fastest of any available trimmers in the industry—cutting anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds of buds per hour. By means of comparison, it’d take dozens of people to hand-trim the same quantity in an hour.

“It’s really cool just being on the cutting edge of the industry,” Bower says. “We’re literally changing the way cannabis companies operate. If we create a machine a certain way, we’re basically going to dictate how that process is done. That’s what I like about it the most.”

Raichart spent five years in the US Navy serving as an avionics technician in the early 1990s. A self-admitted “bad student” in high school, he called the structure and discipline he learned during his time in the military “invaluable.” When hiring, he says he looks for people with military experience because he feels he can count on them. That trust is especially important in a heavily regulated industry such as cannabis where even the smallest procedural and technical errors can carry huge consequences.

At just 28 years old, Bower, who isn’t a military veteran, is the most senior mechanical engineer on the company’s team. He joined the staff in 2016, just weeks after receiving a degree at the University of California, Davis. For his part, Bower describes his job as empowering, thanks to the incredible responsibility and influence he’s been given, in spite of his young age. And working in GreenBroz’ laid back business environment has allowed the engineer to develop revolutionary new products and ideas, his boss says. 

GreenBroz engineer Kevin Bower welding machinery.

Beyond his hiring practices, Raichart takes pride in supporting US businesses. He buys all of his steel, plastic and aluminum domestically, and said his machines are made with 96% US materials. “I buy everything I possibly can from here,” he says. “The only things we get from abroad are some electronics from Taiwan, and a motor that’s sourced from Japan. If there’s anything we want people to know about GreenBroz, it’s that we’re an American company first.”

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