Newsflash:
Issues Economic and Social Justice End Mass Criminalization With 22 Military Veterans Killing Themselves Everyday, Cannabis University Trains Vets to Grow, Sell and Advocate for Pot Medicine
Sunday, 16 February 2014 16:24

With 22 Military Veterans Killing Themselves Everyday, Cannabis University Trains Vets to Grow, Sell and Advocate for Pot Medicine

Written by  April M. Short | AlterNet

Robinson was luckier than many vets, 22 of whom take their own lives every day in the U.S. according to a study released bythe VA. He found relief in an alternative form of medicine, which more and more veterans are advocatingfor the right to consume: cannabis.

While participating in a cycling program through the VA, Robinson learned that many fellow cyclists had chosen to take themselves off of VA medications and use pot to treat their symptoms instead. He followed suit. Two years later he helped to form the local cooperative California Veterans Medicine, which provides medical marijuana at no cost to service-connected injured veterans. Cal Vet Meds’ activities are governed by the state of California and operate in compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215) and Senate Bill 420.

Casey Robinson of Santa Cruz, Calif. served in the Marine Corps from March 2001 to March 2006, completing three tours in Iraq. He was injured in 2003, and again in 2005. After completing his term he was honorably discharged due to his injuries, then referred to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for treatment. That treatment involved a cocktail of different pharmaceutical drugs, which Robinson says made him feel unbearably numb, “like a zombie.”

That zombie effect, or inability to feel anything after using pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to veterans for psychological issues and pain, is commonly reported, as is suicide, which is listed as a possible side effect on most of the drugs commonly prescribed through the VA to treat psychological symptoms in veterans.

Robinson was luckier than many vets, 22 of whom take their own lives every day in the U.S. according to a study released bythe VA. He found relief in an alternative form of medicine, which more and more veterans are advocatingfor the right to consume: cannabis.

While participating in a cycling program through the VA, Robinson learned that many fellow cyclists had chosen to take themselves off of VA medications and use pot to treat their symptoms instead. He followed suit. Two years later he helped to form the local cooperative California Veterans Medicine, which provides medical marijuana at no cost to service-connected injured veterans. Cal Vet Meds’ activities are governed by the state of California and operate in compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215) and Senate Bill 420.

Medical cannabis is only legal in about half of all U.S. states, and even in those states cannabis use means risking one's VA benefits. (That is unless vets live in Colorado or Washington where the VA recently rescinded its strict ban on cannabis use.) If active members of the U.S. military are caught possessing even less than an ounce of cannabis, they risk dishonorable discharge forfeiture of all pay, and confinement for two years. Dishonorably discharged veterans often lose eligibility for VA benefits, including GI Bill and home loan guarantees. In addition, a veteran might be disqualified from federal, state and local government employment and lose the chance to obtain student aid and scholarships, and admission to higher education institutions can be impacted. It can also prevent them from obtaining licenses and certifications needed for jobs or being approved for business credit and loans. 

Casey Robinson’s friend, Donna Jacobs, has a vision she thinks could help remedy all of these issues and more: she's connecting veterans with the burgeoning cannabis industry, with the help of  the world’s first cannabis job training college, Oaksterdam University.

Jacobs, the mother of a soldier who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, has been advocating nationally for veteran access to cannabis for the last decade. She hosts a veterans information show on KSCO radio in Santa Cruz, and founded the local nonprofit Not This Time Vets in 2005 in hopes of helping new generations of veterans avoid the “inadequate care” she felt Vietnam war veterans received. She established a new branch of the organization in December 2012 called Veterans Growing Victory (VGV), focused on connecting vets with the cannabis and hemp industries.

“[VGV] is exactly what we’re trying to get out there—that [cannabis is] a good alternative medicine and that vets are the perfect candidates,” Robinson said. “We don’t really want to get on the VA track. We don’t want to have all these crazy meds, and the option of [medical cannabis] … is freeing.”

As part of Veterans Growing Victory, Jacobs met with Dale Sky Jones, chancellor of Oaksterdam University, in the beginning of last year to discuss the connection between veterans’ issues and the medical cannabis industry. Soon after, Jones developed a new scholarship program called Freedom Fighters, which admits 12 veterans per year free of charge to Oaksterdam. The scholarship program began admitting military veterans last January, with Donna Jacobs as the veterans coordinator.

“I know I’m coloring so far outside the box, as is anybody stepping up and saying, ‘We need to utilize cannabis and hemp for our veterans,’” Jacobs said in a 2012 interview. “My whole take is, you don’t have to support the war, but you have to support the warriors. We’re in a war, and we have veterans coming home right now, so what are we going to do for them? It is the responsibility of Americans—citizens, not just the government—to help our vets."

Freedom Fighters of Oaksterdam

Dale Sky Jones said in an interview last January that she named the scholarship fund Freedom Fighters because she thinks there's a “natural synergy” between veterans and the goals of Oaksterdam University.

“These men and women have been fighting… and now that they’re back they have nothing to fight for, and no one’s asking them to fight, either,” said Jones. “It’s really hard to lose your mission in life. You lose your direction a little bit, too, and then you start to lose your gumption… and I think that may be one underlying cause of these suicides.”

Jones wants to train veterans to help “change the world” while also benefiting them personally.

“There are so many different aspects to what a veteran can learn here, as far as improving their quality of life: taking back control of their own medicine, taking control of their own symptoms and also taking control of their own lives,” Jones said.

The scholarship treats veterans to Oaksterdam’s basic program, which includes training in the history of cannabis prohibition, politics and laws as well as step by step instruction in how to open a dispensary, and hands-on lab training in plant horticulture.

“And then upon graduation from the basic program, [Jacobs’] organization is helping to assist in job placement, and is also working to change the laws,” Jones said.

Oaksterdam admits former soldiers regardless of whether they were honorably or dishonorably discharged. Veterans also recieve a 25 percent discount on all Oaksterdam classes they take.

Aseem Sappal, Oaksterdam’s director of operations, said Oaksterdam already admits veterans on a regular basis, many of whom are interested in growing plants for personal use or seeking employment.

“This gives them the opportunity to get employed and take care of themselves both emotionally and physically,” he said.

The main office of Oaksterdam sits undisguised in the middle of Telegraph Avenue in downtown Oakland, Calif. with a proud storefront banner marking the space. Since its founding in 2007, Oaksterdam has provided hands-on education from faculty members including policy advocate Robert Reich, court-qualified cannabis legal expert Chris Conrad, horticulturist and author Ed Rosenthal, and NORML deputy director Paul Armentano, among others. Students of Oaksterdam learn the skills they need for entering into cannabis trade jobs.

So far, nine veterans have completed trianing through Freedom Fighters, which is currently Oaksterdam's only scholarship program. Since Oaksterdam is strictly tuition and donor-funded, scholarships are limited to four people per semester, though Sappal said they’re looking for volunteers to help extend the program. A video specific to the scholarship fund is in the works. It will feature the stories of veterans and their relationships with cannabis.

Sappal said he’s also working on establishing better relationships with the VA and hospitals.

“The VA’s official policies are not in line [with Oaksterdam’s goals], but the good thing is there are individuals within the VA who are compassionate and see the necessity of what we’re doing here,” he said. “Those individuals have actually called me and spoken to me and expressed interest. Now it’s just a matter of getting on the phones more and extending those relationships.”

Most recently Jacobs helped to admit a veteran from Alabama to Oaksterdam.

“Oaksterdam is such an amazing institute, and their word is spreading across the country,” she said. “This veteran contacted me all the way from Alabama about it.”

Sappal said about 10 percent of the Oaksterdam student body comes from out of state. In recent months they’ve seen an influx of students from Colorado and Washington hoping to get involved in the burgeoning legal cannabis industries in those states. He said Oaksterdam is looking into opening weekend seminars in the two cannabis legal states, as well as New York and Florida, where local laws appear to be moving quickly toward decriminalization of cannabis.

Medical Proof

After he tried using cannabis to treat his own symptoms of PTSD, Perry Parks, a Vietnam combat veteran and highly decorated retired military officer of 28 years, dedicated his life to advocating for veteran access to cannabis. He lives in North Carolina where the herb remains illegal even for medical reasons, and the laws are strictly enforced.

Parks told AlterNet in a December 2013 article that he became convinced he should speak out publically on the "healthcare tragedy" of cannabis prohibition when he traveled to Rhode Island for the Cannabis Therapeutics Conference on the efficacy of medical cannabis for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries in April 2010. There, he learned the medical reasons why the herb was helping alleviate his symptoms. He met the Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam, who is best known for isolating and synthesizing THC—the psychoactive element in cannabis—in 1964. Mechoulam also discovered the brain's endocannabinoid system and the endogenous neurotransmitter anandamide decades later, and has published research showing cannabis’ potential healing effects on Israeli soldiers with brain injuries. 

"When I saw all the scientific evidence that explained why I felt like this, I became even more determined and told my church, I’m gonna go public with this, I'm going to the newspaper, and I’m gonna try to tell people look, this is wrong,” Parks said.

While government organizations like the FDA and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have continually blocked federally sanctioned studies on the topic, research is stacking up to show that cannabis is a viable alternative medicine for physical and mental symptoms common to veterans. Brain imaging research was published last May in the journal Molecular Psychiatry providing physiological evidence of cannabis’ ability to mitigate some PTSD symptoms. In July, High Times published an article titled “Treating PTSD With Pot,” which states, “Research has shown that there is a connection between the amount of cannabinoid receptors in the human brain, known as CB1 receptors, and post-traumatic stress.”

Paul Armentano of NORML wrote an article for The Leaf Online noting that the scientific journal Drug Testing and Analysis published evidence in July that the use of cannabis and cannabinoids likely mitigates symptoms associated with PTSD.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, has been working since 2010 to achieve government approval for a study that will look at whether smoking or vaporizing marijuana can help reduce PTSD symptoms in 50 veterans with PTSD. MAPS spokesperson Brad Burge says the organization is currently waiting to hear back from the National Institute on Drug Abuse following its October 24 resubmission of the study’s protocol—which is now FDA and IRB approved—to find out whether NIDA will sell them the marijuana they need for the study.

But until the laws change at the federal level, veterans' ability to access cannabis remains constrained to small pockets of the nation.

“I think the word is getting out there about cannabis,” Jacobs said. “Once everything changes federally, it will really open up doors for both veterans and civilians.”

Link to original article from AlterNet

Read 5094 times Last modified on Sunday, 16 February 2014 16:30

Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track - Where Does Your Legislator Stand

Click your state to see your Senators and Representatives

Green = Most Legislators Oppose Fast Track, Yellow = Some Opposition, Orange = Oppose TPP, Gray = Unknown
DeLauro 13 - Signed 2013 DeLauro/Miller letter
Pocan - Signed Freshman Letter Opposing Fast Track
W/M - Signed Ways and Means Letter opposing TPP
Gibson - Signed Rep. Chris Gibson letter opposing TPP
SOPA - Oppose Stop Online Piracy Act - voted against
Currency - Oppose Currency Manipulation (Signed Michaud Letter)
Textile - Oppose changes to "First Yarn" (Signed Textile Industry Letter)

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  • Conversations with Great Minds P1 - Rep Keith Ellison - My Country 'Tis of Thee
    Conversations with Great Minds P1 - Rep Keith Ellison - My Country 'Tis of Thee

    Congressman Keith Ellison(D-MN, 5th District) / Author of the new book, My Country 'Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future joins Thom Hartmann.

    Written on Thursday, 06 February 2014 22:36 Read more...
  • JESSE JACKSON: Response to President Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address
    JESSE JACKSON: Response to President Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address

    The country seems turned off and tuned out to the Congress, politics generally and the federal government in particular. The good news is the emerging grass-roots movement exemplified by The Dreamers and the burgeoning campaign among low income workers around the nation, offering a clear challenge to the political gridlock, the inaction and non-work by Congress. Seeking to respond to this grassroots energy and to combat the frustration many people are feeling around the country, President Obama presented an optimistic tone, an uplifting message and a new plan of action to move America forward.

    Written on Thursday, 30 January 2014 20:01 Read more...
  • State of the Union: Right on Wages, Wrong on Trade
    State of the Union: Right on Wages, Wrong on Trade

    President Obama wants 2014 to be a “year of action” in which the country finally begins to address a wealth gap that has made the term “income inequality” the catchphrase of the moment. And he framed the crisis well in his fifth State of the Union address:

    Written on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 17:32 Read more...
  • House passes $956B farm bill
    House passes $956B farm bill

    The House on Wednesday approved a mammoth, $956 billion farm bill in a bipartisan vote.

    Members approved the House-Senate agreement on farm policy in a 251-166 vote. A majority of Republicans backed the bill, with 63 GOP no votes. But a majority of Democrats opposed it, with 103 voting no.

    Written on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 16:45 Read more...
  • Pete Seeger: This Man Surrounded Hate and Forced it to Surrender
     Pete Seeger: This Man Surrounded Hate and Forced it to Surrender

    When some of the greatest musicians in the world gathered five years ago to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of the musician who inspired them all, Bruce Springsteen told Pete Seeger: “You outlasted the bastards, man.”

    And so he did.

    Written on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 16:30 Read more...
  • State of the Union: It doesn’t have to be this way
    State of the Union: It doesn’t have to be this way

    President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night will focus on inequality, on the reality that this economy does not work for working people. Given the obstruction of House and Senate Republicans, the president faces the reality that little of what he proposes can pass this Congress. He has vowed to use his “pen” and “phone” to act unilaterally where he can. But the real challenge is to explain to the American people what the reality is, what must be done and who is standing in the way.

    Written on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 15:56 Read more...
  • Ellison’s Steps to Income Equality: More Powerful Unions and Weaker Trade
    Ellison’s Steps to Income Equality: More Powerful Unions and Weaker Trade

    Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said that increasing the power of unions is key to addressing income inequality in America.

    “We need a comprehensive plan, but let’s start with increasing the right to collective bargaining,” Ellison said on MSNBC. “We’ve got to get workers on the job in a position to demand that the wealth that they create be shared by the company. That’s a key thing. If you look at how wages has stagnated in the United States and you look at how union did something that has gone down, the lines track right together. You got to get power in the hands of the workers. That’s key.”

    Written on Thursday, 23 January 2014 18:18 Read more...
  • Celebrating MLK: A drum major for justice
    Celebrating MLK: A drum major for justice

    As I went from event to event Monday celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King, I was struck by both the tribute and the distortion.

    The tribute is remarkable. Martin Luther King held no public office. He amassed no great fortune. He led no victorious armies

    Written on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 16:03 Read more...
  • Keith Ellison Blasts Inaction on Government-Backed Poverty: “The Most Remarkable Dodge I’ve Ever Seen”
    Keith Ellison Blasts Inaction on Government-Backed Poverty: “The Most Remarkable Dodge I’ve Ever Seen”

    One day after a top Obama administration official deflected a congressman’s call for executive action to raise labor standards for contractors, activists Wednesday announced the filing of a new Department of Labor complaint over alleged wage theft in a government building. The complaint alleges that dozens of workers in D.C.’s government-owned Union Station are owed over $3 million in back pay and damages for rampant failure to pay minimum wage or overtime.

    Written on Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:26 Read more...
  • King’s evolving Dream
    King’s evolving Dream

    It is that time to pause and think about the incredible life and contributions of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., oftentimes referred to as MLK. He was named Michael King Jr. after his father ­ who later changed both their names to Martin Luther, in honor of the religious reformer.

    Written on Saturday, 18 January 2014 15:37 Read more...
  • Moral Monday Movement Spreads Through the South
    Moral Monday Movement Spreads Through the South

    After drawing thousands of protesters to the state legislature and inspiring the arrests of more than 900 people for nonviolent civil disobedience, North Carolina's Moral Monday movement challenging the extreme conservative agenda of the state's Republican-controlled legislature and administration is gearing up for more actions in 2014.

    Written on Monday, 13 January 2014 13:30 Read more...
  • On 50th anniversary of 'War on Poverty' speech, Worcester Rep. Jim McGovern says cuts to SNAP are 'war on poor people'
    On 50th anniversary of 'War on Poverty' speech, Worcester Rep. Jim McGovern says cuts to SNAP are 'war on poor people'

    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern says the "War on Poverty" has shifted from helping the poor to fighting them.

    McGovern, a Democrat who represents the 2nd district, spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday about hunger in America and potential cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in the proposed Farm Bill.

    Written on Saturday, 11 January 2014 15:37 Read more...
  • War on Poverty wages on
    War on Poverty wages on

    Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson, lamenting that too many Americans “live on the outskirts of hope,” declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” This will not be “a short or easy struggle,” he stated in his State of the Union address to the Congress, “no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we will not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

    Written on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 18:11 Read more...
  • Will New York City Lead the Way on Pre-K?
    Will New York City Lead the Way on Pre-K?

    At the Future of America Learning Center in the West Bronx, the pre-K curriculum is built around adult jobs—visiting real workplaces and then learning about the vocabulary and skills that grown-ups use every day.

    Written on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 01:24 Read more...
  • Advice for Young Women: Get a Union Job
    Advice for Young Women: Get a Union Job

    Back in the days before modern feminism, a young woman looking for work might typically be advised, politely, to “learn a trade,” with the implication that she wasn't bound for college or an elite career, but a humbler job as, say, a secretary or seamstress. Such a phrase might sound condescending today. Yet working in a trade might still be sound career goal for a woman, if she gets the right kind of job—in a union.

    Written on Tuesday, 24 December 2013 21:30 Read more...
  • Walmart Workers Will Make History on Friday As America Confronts Growing Inequality
    Walmart Workers Will Make History on Friday As America Confronts Growing Inequality

    This Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, tens of millions of Americans will travel to Walmart stores to look for holiday discounts on computers, toys, and cell phones as well as to buy groceries and basic household items.

    Written on Saturday, 30 November 2013 15:20 Read more...
  • McDonald's: Low-Paid Workers, High-Flying Execs
    McDonald's: Low-Paid Workers, High-Flying Execs

    He was CEO of the hamburger behemoth, McDonald's, pulling down a hefty $8.8 million in pay. Last year, though, Skinner retired, and, rather than getting a gold watch, he was given a load of gold — so large that even a Brink's armored truck would have been too small to haul it all away. His salary of $753,000 was the least of it.

    Written on Thursday, 21 November 2013 13:44 Read more...
  • Growing Movement: Expand Social Security or 'Pay a Price'
    Growing Movement: Expand Social Security or 'Pay a Price'

    Sen. Warren: 'Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day.'

    With Social Security cuts once again on the table in closed-door congressional budget negotiations, a growing movement has taken the offensive, demanding that lawmakers strengthen, rather than stranglehold, our social safety net.

    Written on Thursday, 21 November 2013 13:36 Read more...
  • Paul Ryan Gets 700,000 ‘No’ Votes on Social Security Cuts
    Paul Ryan Gets 700,000 ‘No’ Votes on Social Security Cuts

    Ryan’s office on Wednesday received a petition signed by more than 700,000 people that said there should be “no grand bargain” in the budget negotiations being led by Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., “in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”

    Written on Saturday, 16 November 2013 03:10 Read more...
  • House Dems Can Block GOP Food Stamp Cuts—By Killing the Farm Bill
    House Dems Can Block GOP Food Stamp Cuts—By Killing the Farm Bill

    The farm bill will almost inevitably include deep cuts to the food stamps program—unless House Democrats join with conservatives to kill the bill. The food stamps program—which helps feed one in seven Americans—is in peril. Republicans in the House have proposed a farm bill—the five-year bill that funds agriculture and nutrition programs—that would slash food stamps by $40 billion. But by taking advantage of House Republicans' desire to cut food stamps as much as possible, Democrats might be able to prevent cuts from happening at all.

    Written on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 15:28 Read more...
  • Food Stamps, Yes!
    Food Stamps, Yes!

    If you’re reading this column, you probably don’t participate in a government program such as SNAP, to help provide food for your family. If you can afford to have a newspaper delivered to your home, or if you have a computer and an internet connection so you can read online, you may have more than enough money for food.

    Written on Friday, 04 October 2013 01:50 Read more...

Does Your Legislator Support the Robin Hood Tax?

Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries.

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Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.

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Hand Deliver a Letter to your Rep on Jobs

If your Representative is not currently a cosponsor of HR 1000 they may not completely understand how important full employment is to your community; click on your state at the bottom of this page to see all the cosponsors in your state. Nothing sends a stronger message to a Congressional member than a personal visit to a district office by a voter with a written request. Phone calls and emails are incredibly important but nothing gets attention like a personal visit. Our Educate Congress page has information and a sample letter. Print the letter, sign it, deliver it.

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Report on your TPP Contact

Please let us know your legislator's stance on Fast Track Authorization for the Trans Pacific Partnership as well as their stance on the TPP in General. Click here to report the response.

The Robin Hood Tax

Robin Hood Tax: John Nichols and Keith Ellison and Michael Lighty

Why The Robin Hood Tax

Rep. Jim McGovern on Protecting SNAP

Workers Speak Out on the TPP

PDA Labor Panel - Progressive Central III

Main Street NOT Wall Street

The Trans Pacific Partnership: Corporate Global Domination

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

Lori Wallach Leaked TPP Documents (Democracy NOW)

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of

Lori Wallach on Thom Hartmann (Great Minds) - The TPP

TPP Downloads

The following documents are available from the Oppose TPP Downloads Folder

June 29th TPP Powerpoint

CWA TPP Jobs Report

Endorse HR 1000

Read the bill text and endorse HR 1000 as an individual or an organization