Arkansas Veterans Rally For Medical Marijuana

While many took advantage of the holiday weekend to have a cookout with friends and family, a group of courageous veterans came together in Little Rock, Arkansas, to fight for the cause of medical marijuana. The medical marijuana advocacy group Arkansans for Compassionate Care was also in attendance at the rally.

Unlike other rallies at state capitols, the intended purpose was not to jar the state’s lawmakers into action but rather its citizens. Supporters in attendance were gathering signatures for a proposed 2016 ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state. In previous years, attempts to put medical marijuana on the ballot have been unsuccessful because they failed to gather enough signatures.

Melissa Fults is a representative of Arkansans for Compassionate Care. She spoke with THV11 about how veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder face terrible choices upon returning home from the battlefield.

“They’ve given so much. And they come home, they suffer from something like PTSD, and all they want to do is give them a handful of pills,” Fults said. “They don’t care if there’s a better alternative.” For Fults and those that gathered in Little Rock over the weekend, that better alternative is medical marijuana.

According to a study conducted by the Congressional Research Service, approximately 20 percent of veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD; however, given the heavy stigma on mental illness, many speculate that number could be higher.

While many of these returning veterans resort to alcohol and/or pharmaceuticals to cope with the stress of their condition, a growing number of former service men and women are using marijuana to help treat their condition, often with positive results.

As reported by Leonard Pitts, Jr., one such service member is PFC Jared Hunter. While serving in Iraq, his unit befriended a young boy who would often follow them on patrol. They eventually adopted the boy as their “mascot” and would even give him small gifts, like a soccer ball. Sadly, one day their unit came under fire and the boy who had accompanied them on so many missions never returned home.

After his tour of duty, Hunter began to suffer from night terrors, heart palpitations, and even thoughts of suicide. With the urging from a friend, Hunter tried marijuana to help cope with his condition. Speaking with the Pitts, Hunter explained how marijuana has helped him.

“It calmed the anxiety. I wasn’t having near as many anger problems. … The suicide stuff went away,” Hunter said. “I didn’t really feel that desperate to do anything like that again … . I could actually lay down and … get a halfway decent night’s rest.”

For Hunter, and the thousands like him, the choice between going to jail and having a livable life is an untenable position. At the rally, according to ABC News, veteran Robert Reed said that veterans “are being held [as] prisoners of war to our government.”

Despite past failures, hopes are still high that voters in Arkansas will move to approve medical marijuana. The political landscape has drastically changed in the last two years, and will continue to move like a landslide across the nation.

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