By Debbie Gregory.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called U.S. abuse of prescription narcotics the worst drug addiction epidemic in the country’s history. To mitigate this problem, a strong case has been made for medical marijuana as an alternative.
“Plants, not pills,” said Aaron Newsom, co-founder and vice president of Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. The group’s goal is to provide qualified California military veterans with top quality lab tested medical cannabis grown by fellow veterans, as well as providing a community and support network for veterans.
On the first and third Monday of each month, the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance meets behind the VFW building in Live Oak to dispense small brown bags containing an alternative pain reliever to an army of veterans with PTSD and chronic pain.
Newsom, who served in the Marine Corps from 2002 to 2008, and fellow co-founder Jason Sweatt, are not just leaders in the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, they also use the medicine to treat their own combat-inflicted PTSD.
“What veterans need, what everyone needs, is alternatives to prescription medications. Not just narcotics, but also the wide range of antidepressants and their negative side effects,” Newsom said.
The Veterans Alliance has developed a unique business model, where they grow the marijuana, donate a percentage of the yield to medical card-holding members for free and then sell the remainder to general medical cannabis dispensaries.
Marcel Bonn-Miller, a principal investigator at the Department of Veterans Affair’s Substance and Anxiety Intervention Laboratory in Menlo Park, and his team have donated their time and resources to perform a six-month study of members of the Veterans Alliance to analyze the effects of medical marijuana on PTSD symptoms
“We’re using written questionnaires to assess their PTSD and sleep over time. We’re also having the marijuana that the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance distributes tested by SC Labs,” Bonn-Miller said.
To join the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, you must be a military veteran, California resident and have a state medical marijuana recommendation from a doctor. For more information, visit scveteransalliance.com.