A veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder is facing life in prison for using marijuana to treat his illness. Kristoffer Lewandowski was arrested during a June 2014 raid, for growing a small amount of marijuana in his Oklahoma home. The former Marine who completed two deployments in Iraq and witnessed a handful of traumatic events during the war, was eventually discharged after being evaluated and found 100% disabled due to his deployment.
Lewandowski was reportedly self medicating, using cannabis to treat his PTSD, and was arrested after his neighbors and wife called the police during one of the veteran's PTSD flare-ups. He was charged with several offenses, one of which was felony marijuana cultivation. Under Oklahoma’s unusually strict marijuana laws, the charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison
Cannabis is commonly used to treat PTSD
There are many studies that point to the effectiveness of cannabis in treating symptoms of PTSD. The cannabinoid system in the brain is related to memory, and some researchers believe that the THC in marijuana may assist with memory extinction, a term used in the medical community to describe someone's newer memories replacing their old ones.
The memory extinction effect may be able to help PTSD patients reduce their responses to external stimuli that remind them of past traumatic situations. The drug remains one of the most promising options for treating the disorder, but patients like Lewandowski are being punished with severe penalties in states like Oklahoma for simply attempting to treat their illnesses.
Lewandowski was never offered treatment
Instead of offering Lewandowski treatment for his mental illness, they handcuffed him and threatened to put his three children in Child Protective Services. They even coerced his wife to press charges against him for domestic violence under the threat of taking away her children.
Lewandowski was never once offered drug rehabilitation treatment or domestic violence counseling, aside from the potential for a brutal life sentence in prison. His wife said that the medical marijuana proved to be much more effective than the 13 prescription medications he was taking on a daily basis which had severe side effects.
Recent federal law changes allow marijuana to be prescribed in some states for PTSD
This year, the federal government gave the green light for medical marijuana to be researched as a potential treatment for PTSD. The government allocated money for researchers to test marijuana as a treatment for the disorder, and the parameters of the study were already approved by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2014.
The U.S. government also allowed the drug to be prescribed to PTSD veterans, but only in states where it is legalized for medicinal use. In spite of loosening regulations from the federal government, states like Oklahoma and Texas still have draconian drug laws -- even for patients who can clearly benefit from science backed cannabis medicines like Lewandowski.