Veterans and prominent veteran associations are at the forefront of the medical marijuana legalization movement in traditionally conservative Southern states and many are hopeful that this push from this specific, also traditionally conservative community will be just the catalyst holdout lawmakers need to make changes in the legislature.
Chayse Roth, a former gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, is using his personal experiences of losing veteran friend after veteran friend to PTSD-related suicide in conjunction with one of the state’s bold claims to advocate for medical marijuana for veterans. As he told USA Today, each time he drives back into NC he takes particular notice of a message on the state highway welcome sign that reads “Nations Most Military Friendly State.” “That’s a powerful thing to claim,” he said, alluding to his later explained feelings on how the state needs to legalize medical marijuana for veterans to live up to that highway sign’s statement – a sentiment shared by those across the nation as the push for veteran access to medical marijuana continues to make positive waves in the industry.
In an astonishing statement, Roth explained that he’s lost more men to suicide since our nation first went to Afghanistan in 2001 than he’s lost in combat over the same time span. “It’s just unacceptable for these guys to go overseas and win the battle and come home and lose the battle to themselves,” he said. With those incredibly somber numbers in mind, Roth recently joined an advocacy group called NC Families for Medical Marijuana, described on the group’s website as a “coalition of families, veterans, physicians, and other medical professionals who believe safe, regulated access to medical cannabis is critical for the wellbeing and quality of life of NC patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions.” PTSD is the second condition on their long list that would become legal for doctors to recommend and/or prescribe medical cannabis for if the NC Compassionate Care Act is passed, which is one of the group’s and Roth’s main objectives. While they have a long way to go (the bill is in the consideration state at the time this article was written), the group’s members and experts alike are very optimistic about the direction things are going.
Julius Hobson Jr., a former American Medical Association lobbyist, was quoted in the same USA article as Roth voicing his positive outlook on the veterans’ plan of action for making medical marijuana happen in the Republican-dominated deep South. “When you’ve got veterans coming in advocating for that, and they’re considered to be a more conservative bunch of folks, that has more impact,” Hobson said, referring to the considerably strong relationship between conservative and Republican groups/lawmakers and the veteran community. Republican and conservative politicians have long touted their strong support for our troops and, as Roth and advocacy groups hope, positing medical marijuana as a way to further support the troops may just be enough to sway many of them in the direction of at least some type of legalization.
While North Carolina has been holding steadfast to its anti-cannabis legislature and somewhat general culture for decades now, there has been momentum in the Southern state recently. Earlier this week, “growing, selling, and using medical marijuana on [Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians] lands in North Carolina” was approved, marking one of the first true successes for MMJ in the state.