Health

Grass-roots movement helps veterans access marijuana

Published 8:15 AM ET, Sat April 28, 2018
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Veterans Aaron Newsom, left, and Jason Sweatt met in 2011 and learned that they shared a positive experience: finding relief for their war-related health issues with medical cannabis. The VA can't prescribe it, and cannabis can be too expensive for a lot of veterans. Seth Smith/SCVA
The veterans wanted to make medical cannabis a viable option for others, so they built started the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance in California. Seth Smith/SCVA
From the ground up, the alliance built two marijuana-growing facilities. One in Santa Cruz County and one in the city of Watsonville. Seth Smith/SCVA
Newsom and his manufacturing partner from Kaizen Medicinals were pleased with the way the plants were growing. Seth Smith/SCVA
Because Newsom and Sweatt were able to grow the plants, process the plants and sell them at their own licensed facilities, they were able to set aside 10% of everything they grew. Seth Smith/SCVA
That 10% meant they could give veterans vouchers to get free medical marijuana. Seth Smith/SCVA
Many veterans use the medical marijuana to help with pain. The research is still limited about its impact on other problems, but alliance members swear by it and say it helps them with problems like post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain from arthritis and sleep issues. "This brought me a sense of balance, a connectedness to nature and to my loved ones and to myself," Socrates Rosenfeld said. Seth Smith/SCVA
The alliance is working on its 12th California dispensary license. It employs veterans at every step of the process; 95% of them are on some service-connected disability. Seth Smith/SCVA