Newsflash:
Issues End Corporate Rule 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 6243 times Last modified on Sunday, 16 February 2014 16:30

End Corporate Rule

  • Protest Groups Call for Linking Arms on Wall Street to Stop the Destruction of the Ecosystem
    Protest Groups Call for Linking Arms on Wall Street to Stop the Destruction of the Ecosystem #FloodWallStreet – A day of non-violent direct action, Monday September 22nd: Thousands of demonstrators are planning to disrupt business-as-usual on Wall Street and at the NY Stock Exchange, sending a message to Obama and world leaders meeting at the UN Climate Summit on the 23rd: “Our economic system both causes, and profits from the crisis that is threatening humanity.”
    Written on Monday, 15 September 2014 18:37 Read more...
  • The Senate Tried to Overturn 'Citizens United' Today. Guess What Stopped Them?
    The Senate Tried to Overturn 'Citizens United' Today. Guess What Stopped Them? A majority of the United States Senate has voted to advance a constitutional amendment to restore the ability of Congress and the states to establish campaign fundraising and spending rules with an eye toward preventing billionaires and corporations from buying elections.
    Written on Saturday, 13 September 2014 14:48 Read more...
  • Bipartisan Case for a Constitutional Amendment on Campaign Finance
    Bipartisan Case for a Constitutional Amendment on Campaign Finance Following recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions dismantling our nation’s campaign finance laws, all Americans are certainly not equal on Election Day. With 5-4 split decisions, the court has given corporations the ability to spend unlimited money to persuade voters, and also declared limits on large donations to be the equivalent of infringement on speech.
    Written on Monday, 08 September 2014 21:46 Read more...
  • Coalition Asks John McCain to Support Constitutional Amendment, Hits a Glass Wall
    Coalition Asks John McCain to Support Constitutional Amendment, Hits a Glass Wall On Thursday, a broad coalition of activists met at Senator John McCain's office in an upscale building at a tony Camelback Road address to ask him to sponsor a constitutional amendment. Known as the Democracy For All amendment, it would overturn the Supreme Court 's decision on Citizens United from four years ago. You know — the decision that allowed all that money from 'corporations-are-people-too' into the political process.
    Written on Saturday, 06 September 2014 13:13 Read more...
  • Activists Deliver Amendment Petitions to 21 Senate Offices
    Activists Deliver Amendment Petitions to 21 Senate Offices

    Congress may be on recess, but activists across the country are not taking a break from the nationwide push to get big money out of politics. Today activists teamed up for a massive petition drop, delivering petitions in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United to 21 Senate offices in 15 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington).

    Written on Friday, 22 August 2014 15:41 Read more...
  • On the Hill with Heroes and Tap Dancers
    On the Hill with Heroes and Tap Dancers I think the bad guys are sacred of the heroes and the tap dancers are managing a shuffle ball change just enough to keep in step with re-election. Thursday July 24, 2014, twenty-three heroes, Americans voting with their time to reverse the Supreme Court erosion of our equality of citizenship, congregated in the Russell Senate building waiting for Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va).
    Written on Friday, 08 August 2014 13:57 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Quietly Racked Up A Nice Win
    Elizabeth Warren Quietly Racked Up A Nice Win Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) got her way on Tuesday when the Federal Reserve rejected the living will plans for most Wall Street banks.
    Written on Wednesday, 06 August 2014 22:15 Read more...
  • The Koch Brothers' Reign of Terror: How Their Great Wealth Is Buying Our Government
    The Koch Brothers' Reign of Terror: How Their Great Wealth Is Buying Our Government

    It seems like every e-mail I receive these days from a Democratic Senate candidate or Senator up for re-election this cycle includes a warning that the infamous Koch brothers will do anything, no matter the cost, to take over the US Senate - and with it, our country.

    Written on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 15:20 Read more...
  • The Ultimate Goal of the NSA is Total Population Control
    The Ultimate Goal of the NSA is Total Population Control At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US, says whistleblower William Binney – that's a 'totalitarian mentality'
    Written on Sunday, 03 August 2014 22:52 Read more...
  • Democrats Introduce Bill that Could Lead to Impeachment for Justices Thomas and Scalia
    Democrats Introduce Bill that Could Lead to Impeachment for Justices Thomas and Scalia

    On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers proposed a law to establish a Code of Conduct  for the Supreme Court.

    It’s surely to have Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia quaking in their Tea Party boots because it would mean they would actually have to be independent of political and other influences. They would also have to have the appearance of independence.  They would have to stay away from political activity. That part would be really hard.

    Written on Sunday, 06 July 2014 14:47 Read more...
  • California makes an official call for a U.S. Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United
    California makes an official call for a U.S. Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United

    On June 23rd the State Senate passed AJR 1, making California the second state in the union to officially call for an Article V constitutional convention for the sole purpose of passing a United States constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn Citizens United v. FEC and limit the corrupting influence of money in our electoral process.

    Written on Thursday, 26 June 2014 13:29 Read more...
  • New Organization Hangs Sign: 'Whistleblowers Welcome'
    New Organization Hangs Sign: 'Whistleblowers Welcome'

    A new organization called ExposeFacts—backed by well-known source of The Pentagon Papers Daniel Ellsberg—is debuting itself in Washington, DC on Wednesday as a new place where government and corporate employees aware of wrongdoing can more safely and securely report their concerns.

    Written on Sunday, 08 June 2014 13:54 Read more...
  • 'Astroturf' Groups Leading Drive to Kill Open Internet
    'Astroturf' Groups Leading Drive to Kill Open Internet

    The telecommunications industry is creating and funding front groups which pose as consumer organizations and aggressively lobby to kill net neutrality, journalist Lee Fang revealed in an article published in Vice on Friday.

    Written on Sunday, 08 June 2014 13:39 Read more...
  • John Oliver Calls on Angry Internet Trolls to Save Net Neutrality (video)
    John Oliver Calls on Angry Internet Trolls to Save Net Neutrality (video)

    It’s a sad state of affairs when a country that touts freedom of the press depends upon cable TV comedy shows to hear the real news.

    Written on Friday, 06 June 2014 04:19 Read more...
  • Oligarchy Enshrined
    Oligarchy Enshrined

    Why the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling is good news for the super-rich and bad news for progressive Democrats.

    At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, a conservative election lawyer and a baby-faced electrical engineer from Alabama with a made-for-TV Southern drawl began plotting how to unravel federal campaign finance regulations.

    Written on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 01:21 Read more...
  • Lincoln Didn't Fight the Civil War to Free the Corporations - Video
    Lincoln Didn't Fight the Civil War to Free the Corporations - Video

    This is an idea worth spreading - so - please watch & share with 5 or 10 friends. It’s important to get money out of politics and the average person back in. Also - leave a message on the YouTube and let TED know - this is one of the most important issues of the day."

    Written on Thursday, 15 May 2014 17:16 Read more...
  • Out of the Shadows: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    Out of the Shadows: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is, as they boast on its website, the world's largest business organization, as well as the nation's largest corporate lobbying group. It is also a recipient of some of the largest amounts of so-called "dark" money in the country, refusing to disclose to the public its donors or even the amounts it receives. 

    Written on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 15:56 Read more...
  • Bernie Sanders Raises Battle Cry Against Citizens United: "I Vote for Democracy!"
    Bernie Sanders Raises Battle Cry Against Citizens United: "I Vote for Democracy!"

    Citizens United is not just the default reference for US Supreme Court decisions—including the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling—that have ushered in a new era of corporate dominance of American elections. It’s the name of the conservative group that encouraged Chief Justice John Roberts and the most activist Court majority in American history to tear the heart out of what were already weak campaign finance laws.

    Written on Sunday, 13 April 2014 04:24 Read more...
  • Local protests held in response to Supreme Court donation ruling
    Local protests held in response to Supreme Court donation ruling

    PITTSFIELD -- Their signs read "Get Big Money Out of Politics," "Democracy Is Not For Sale" and "This Is What Plutocracy Looks Like." About a dozen of them stood in Park Square on Wednesday evening, one of 130 "rapid response events" coordinated nationwide to protest that morning's Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.    

    Written on Friday, 04 April 2014 14:38 Read more...
  • With McCutcheon Ruling, An Activist Court Opts for Full-On Plutocracy
    With McCutcheon Ruling, An Activist Court Opts for Full-On Plutocracy

    Any doubts about the determination of an activist United States Supreme Court to rewrite election rules so that the dollar matters more than the vote were removed Wednesday, when McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was decided in favor of the dollar.

    Written on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 22:24 Read more...
  • TPM Interview: The Brown Grad Student Who Chased The NRA Out Of Rhode Island
    TPM Interview: The Brown Grad Student Who Chased The NRA Out Of Rhode Island

    Sam Bell is in the third year of a PhD program in geology at Brown University. Geology as in rocks. But Bell also moonlights as the the state coordinator of The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, the state affiliate of the 10-year-old Progressive Democrats of America. And in his work with The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, Bell was instrumental to the investigation that ultimately led to the National Rifle Association paying the second largest campaign finance fine in the state's history.

    Written on Thursday, 27 February 2014 22:13 Read more...
  • Thank a Postal Worker This Holiday Season
    Thank a Postal Worker This Holiday Season

    Postal workers are giving it their all this holiday season, as cards and packages and returns must be collected and delivered amidst ice storms, snowstorms and wild temperature drops.

    They deserve our thanks in 2013.

    And our support in 2014.

    Written on Thursday, 26 December 2013 23:49 Read more...
  • Fast Food Giants Gorge on Subsidies
    Fast Food Giants Gorge on Subsidies

    Thanks to a loophole that subsidizes CEO pay, McDonald's, Yum Brands, Wendy's, Burger King, Domino's, and Dunkin' Brands trimmed $64 million from their tax bills in 2011 and 2012.

    The fast food industry is notorious for handing out lean paychecks to their burger flippers and fat ones to their CEOs. What’s less well-known is that taxpayers are actually subsidizing fast food incomes at both the bottom — and top — of the industry.

    Written on Monday, 02 December 2013 23:07 Read more...
  • This Thanksgiving, Let's Celebrate AgriCULTURE, Not AgriBUSINESS
    This Thanksgiving, Let's Celebrate AgriCULTURE, Not AgriBUSINESS

    In December 1972, I was part of a nationwide campaign that came tantalizingly close to getting the U.S. Senate to reject Earl Butz, Richard Nixon's choice for secretary of agriculture. A coalition of grass-roots farmers, consumers and scrappy public interest organizations (like the Agribusiness Accountability Project that Susan DeMarco and I then headed) teamed up with some gutsy, unabashedly progressive senators to undertake the almost impossible challenge of defeating the cabinet nominee of a president who'd just been elected in a landslide.

    Written on Friday, 29 November 2013 00:06 Read more...
  • Arizona Democratic Party Shows Its Progressive Side at State Committee Meeting
    Arizona Democratic Party Shows Its Progressive Side at State Committee Meeting

    Progressive voices were heard loud and clear at Saturday’s Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) State Committee Meeting in Maricopa, Arizona.

    Unlike some past ADP meetings where progressives were ignored or where progressive resolutions were tabled and not heard by the full ADP membership, the Maricopa meeting was dominated by progressives.

    Written on Monday, 18 November 2013 20:09 Read more...
  • Can Public Banking Spur Economic Growth in Southern Arizona?
    Can Public Banking Spur Economic Growth in Southern Arizona?

    Tucson is one of the most impoverished cities in the country—for many reasons. The Arizona Legislature—driven by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and short-sighted, “small government” ideology—has routinely swept funds earmarked for counties and cities to “balance” the state’s budget or fund pet projects like lower corporate taxes. Beyond the Legislature’s negative impact on Baja Arizona, the Tucson economy is not diversified enough. Manufacturing is nearly non-existent in Southern Arizona. There is an over-reliance on defense spending, University of Arizona spin-offs, tourism, low-wage service jobs, and growth/development. 

    Written on Friday, 15 November 2013 15:56 Read more...

Sign the TPP Fast Track Petitions

MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track

Public Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority

MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab

 

Find Your Elected Officials for Issues

Enter your zip+4 and find your elected officials. This link provides name, address and phone number

ButtonFindElectedOfficials

 

Progressive Central Panel on Ending Corporate Rule

Ask Bill Moyers How to Overturn Citizens United