NEW PORT RICHEY — Ex-military members from around Pasco County, the state and the nation gathered last Thursday in front of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic New Port Richey to rally in support of legalizing medical marijuana use.
Spotting signs such as “Vets for Cannabis,” several drivers honked their car horns as they zipped by on Little Road.
With some 50,000 veterans residing in Pasco County, the issue of medical marijuana often touches a nerve. Donald Land, a 20-year Army veteran from the area, showed his support to put a constitutional amendment on a ballot to let voters decide.
“Part of the reason that we’re here is the fact that there are so many veterans in this community who are being treated for post-traumatic stress,” Jodie James, Florida Cannabis Action Network executive director and 100kstrong.net Project representative, said. Some psychotropic drugs to treat PTSD can cause suicidal tendencies, James said.
A year ago, a veteran was committing suicide once every 80 minutes, according to James. Now, a veteran chooses suicide once every 62 minutes.
“We have a medicine that we believe is going to be more effective than the current course of treatment if we can simply change the laws,” James said.
Medical marijuana also could relieve suffering for traumatic brain injuries, phantom limb pain and chronic pain management, organizers argue.
Michael Krawitz, executive director for Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access in Virginia, made the trip to Florida to support the cause and his comrades. He’s a disabled Air Force veteran.
Krawitz said supporters often have to educate U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs leaders about their own policies. He believes a good dialogue was opened with New Port Richey VA officials. VA officials weren’t available for comment at press time.
The New Port Richey stop was one of 11 sites along the whistle-stop tour around Florida that concluded Monday on Veterans Day, James said.