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    Posted December 26, 2013 by
    Crooked River Ranch, Oregon
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Does marijuana help you?

    Marijuana Helps with PTSD and Pain

    I am a combat veteran of Vietnam, where I spent 18 months as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal operator. I was wounded twice and should have been killed the first time. Since returning from Vietnam, despite receiving an advanced education and relative professional success, I have had to deal with fairly severe PTSD and physical problems caused by being wounded and I have been smoking pot pretty much since 1971, when I was discharged.

    For years it has helped me sleep, and, without it, even with medication I get from the VA, I just do not sleep until I am so exhausted I pass out. When I was wounded the first time, I was, literally, blown up by a mortar round I was attempting to move to a safe area for demolition in an ammo dump that the VC had blown up three times in February-March 1969. It went off in the back of my truck, over the gas tank, and blew me through the door. I hit the ground and damaged my left knee and lower back, in addition to burns and shrapnel in the back of my head, neck and arms. Even though the VA provided me with morphine, it never really left me pain free. If I use marijuana, my pain is tolerable and it has allowed me to ride my horse for many more days in a row than I was able to without using pot.

    In terms of my PTSD symptoms, it seems to help with issues like startle response, hyper-vigilance and things I would rather not think about. To be honest, during most of my professional career, I never found that it interfered with my work, and by the time I retired in 2003 after 25 years as a public defender and capital defense investigator, I had been honored by my peers on more than one occasion.

    I now volunteer as a veterans service officer assisting my fellow veterans with claims for VA benefits. Many of my clients use marijuana for similar reasons like my own, and I have never found one of them to have bad side effects from its use. In this kind of work, I have watched as many of my clients and friends destroyed themselves, and their families, with alcohol, including dying from liver disease or drinking and using prescription medication. I have never had a client or friend who uses pot end up like this and I have never known of a case where someone who had used marijuana was arrested for DUI, crashed their vehicle, or committed the kind of crimes we normally see associated with alcohol abuse.

    It is, of course, extremely hypocritical, to me, that alcohol and tobacco are legal while pot is not, at least under federal law, when these two legal products have killed millions over the years. The fact that pot is a Schedule I drug under the federal Harrison Dangerous Drugs Act, is about as fucked up as anything I can think of. To compare pot to heroin is what should be criminal and claims by a number of sources that pot is a "gateway drug" is simply not supported by any credible empirical evidence. I have smoked pot for more than 40 years and never been tempted, for instance, to use heroin. None of my veteran friends or clients who smoke pot have ever used heroin.

    In conclusion, the fact that pot is still illegal in many places is absurd and the same people who want to keep it illegal are those who believe that they can legislate morality, such as gay rights and prostitution. As far as I am concerned, these people, and not pot, are the problem. I would like to know how many members of Congress who favor keeping it illegal are alcoholics and I would bet the number is not just a few.

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