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MEET A VET FIGHTING FOR CANNABIS ACCESS FOR ALL
Sergeant Jeremy Sankey spent ten years in the Army as a communications specialist. He supported National Guard troops who were preparing to deploy on Operation Enduring Freedom. (Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001 with allied air strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda targets.)
After training dozens of units on varying communications equipment, Sankey was injured on the job. After extensive back surgery, he was prescribed narcotic painkillers. In 2005, Sankey was honorably discharged.
By 2014, a fellow vet introduced Sankey to medicinal cannabis, which opened up a new world of relief.
“I used cannabis for the first time for about a week without any of my pharmaceuticals just to see how I would feel,” he explained. “The transformation was drastic, I felt better after one week of cannabis than I had on several years of pills.”
“Minnesota veterans should not have to break the law in order to heal. They should not have to risk the freedom they’ve already paid for with their blood, sweat and tears.”
Natural alternative to prescription pills is unavailable to vets
“After I had used cannabis for a week and noticed the difference, I got angry. I was hurt, frustrated, confused, I could go on and on. But it comes down to this: I took all these pills when I could have just used cannabis. We would later get my pharmacy records from the VA and the amount of pills I had swallowed was upwards of 50,000.”
Sankey decided to put his anger to good use. In 2015, he founded Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis. The nonprofit group advocates for cannabis legalization through education and awareness. Members meet with state politicians to explain how cannabis therapy helps vets.
Minnesota has a medicinal cannabis program. But it’s restrictive and expensive. As a result, enrollment is low.
“I thought that I couldn’t be the only veteran in Minnesota who was going through this,” Sankey said. “We do support legalization for adult personal use, because we think that veterans could medicate themselves better than anyone else.”
VETS IN HIDING
When visiting VA doctors, many veterans stay mum about their cannabis use. They’re afraid of losing benefits. Sankey, on the other hand, is open about his consumption.
“I don’t hide it. I have and obtain all VA policy documents in reference to veterans using cannabis for treatment. I only see them for treatment of medical issues; I don’t see them for instructions on how I can act.”
Vets have encountered far more dangerous things than cannabis
Jeremy Sankey spoke to supporters and advocates for full legalization of cannabis in Minnesota at a 420 event in the rotunda of the Minnesota State Capitol in 2018.
VA and Cannabis—What Veterans need to know
Cannabis legal in your state? Doesn’t matter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA doctors cannot prescribe cannabis to their patients. Why? On the federal level, the plant remains a Schedule I substance.
Support for veterans’ access to medicinal cannabis is growing. Cannabis is effective in treating many conditions that affect vets in higher numbers, such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Yet VA doctors treat these ailments with powerful prescription medications, which can be habit-forming and have debilitating side effects. Is that really healing?
By Rachelle Gordon
Rachelle Gordon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and educator in the cannabis space. She has dedicated herself to informing others about the powers of plant medicine after witnessing her father’s struggle with epilepsy (and subsequent stroke) in her childhood.
Rachelle’s posts are being provided for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Boveda of any of the products, services or opinions of Rachelle. Boveda bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of this post or links to the posts.