Article by Caleb Masoner, Executive Director of Operation 1620
Veterans are consistently voicing their opinion on having additional alternatives to the pharmaceuticals that have been prescribed by the VA for symptoms stemming from foreign conflicts. Operation 1620 member, Steven Acheson, recently spoke at a Wisconsin event about how cannabis helped him to begin to return to a routine, but not before a story familiar to many veterans begins to unfold.
After leaving from active duty in 2008, Acheson began to pursue a degree in Engineering when the VA health system began treating him. With OxyContin being prescribed and sent to his front door, Acheson found it “almost impossible” and said “I didn’t even have to leave my house to become a drug addict.” because the pills were “mailed to my front door.”
Surprisingly, the flower labeled as a gateway drug, cannabis, was what helped get Steven entirely off all of the pain pills and return to a sense of normalcy. His state, Wisconsin, is one that still labels cannabis illegal and ignores modern and historical evidence to the contrary. Currently, 33 states have legalized cannabis for recreational or medicinal use. Veteran members of Operation 1620 are beginning to find refuge in the absence of a Department of Veterans Affairs that will hold an open and honest conversation about the natural medicine.
Operation 1620 is a growing 501(c)(3) peer to peer organization bringing awareness, education and support to veterans using cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. Operation 1620 has a veteran-only online platform where prior service military members can engage in peer conversations about challenges, successes and failures regarding using cannabis as a natural alternative. We also hold regular Breakfast Buds events where we meet monthly to have breakfast and visit a dispensary that gives us discounts and we also have other events where we just meet up and hang out, such as our holiday party in December 2018.
Operation 1620 met up with Steven and asked him about his relationship with Operation 1620 and what he thinks the future holds for the organization. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you hear about Operation 1620?
Wisconsin Veterans for Compassionate Care (WVCC) Co-Founder Andria Roberts was a member and she invited me to join.
If you had to narrow it down to just one thing, what single aspect of Operation 1620 has benefitted you the most?
If I had to pick one thing about OP1620 that I like the most, it is the ability to quickly network and find useful and relevant information regarding medical cannabis.
How have you witnessed OP1620 benefit your community/friends/those around you?
OP1620 has provided veterans using medical cannabis to treat service connected injuries a place to gather, and find that light-hearted camaraderie and peer support we experienced from our time in the military.
What excites you the most about the future as a member of Operation 1620?
What excites me the most is the potential to leverage our membership numbers as well as our experience with cannabis as a medicine to take on a more active role to organize national advocacy efforts around this issue.
Where would you like to see Operation 1620 in 5 years?
I would love to see Operation 1620 develop specific transitional programming for veterans leaving the military. Particularly once cannabis legalization happens nationwide, OP1620 could be present at all military bases to interact with veterans going through exiting transitional services, much like the “VA Benefits” class that troops are offered to take to familiarize themselves with how to access benefits, OP1620 could develop programming to help veterans connect with folks at their home of record who can connect them to vetted cannabis resources and networks. All I know is that I wish I had found cannabis day-1 after leaving the military. Instead, I had to deal with rounds and rounds of pills from the VA first. We could offer and alternative so they don’t have to go through the same hell.
Steven is currently the co-founder and director of the High Ground Veterans Advocacy group, as well as co-founder of the Wisconsin Veterans for Compassionate Care (WVCC), and an avid veteran cannabis advocate. If Steven had it his way, the Department of Veteran Affairs would provide cannabis to veterans since it should be treated just like any other form of treatment veterans obtain through private providers that currently are reimbursable.
“They do it already with acupuncture. They do it already with chiropractic work. They do it already with a number of things health care related that the VA just can’t provide. I don’t see any reason why on a state by state basis, we can’t be doing the same thing with cannabis,” Acheson said.
Eventually politicians will begin to listen to what the citizens have been calling for and what a growing number of states have enacted and will vote to grant access to medical cannabis for our brothers and sisters in every state.
There are signs that are beginning to point towards legalization but we are at the mercy of our governments and their slow march to common sense reform, so we desperately wait. Only time will tell. Until then, Operation 1620 will work hard to provide expanded access to safe cannabis, taking advantage of local laws to benefit veterans as much as possible.
Read Original CBS Article HERE