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Letter: Medical Marijuana Helps Combat Vets

“America has an opioid crisis, not a marijuana one …”

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Dear Editor,

I am writing in reply to today’s article by Laura Hudson.

I write in my capacity as a U.S. Marine, combat veteran, licensed mental health and military families’ South Carolina social worker, and the founder and director of Operation Vet Fit, a SC Charity and an IRS 501(C)(3) combat veterans advocacy agency.  I also write in my capacity as a disabled veteran who has suffered more than two decades with debilitating pain.

Ms. Hudson, your opinion piece is just that, your opinion, based on personal cognitive distortions, your own internal bias coupled with non-scientific attempts to connect marijuana to more harmful drugs like heroin (especially in the form of legal prescription opioids).  While I admire and appreciate your passion on this issue, I must at least attempt to compel you to peer through the other side of the debate regarding the efficacy of this plant, that even in its natural state provides so many with relief from pain, seizures, anxiety, nausea and so much more.

Ma’am, I am a combat veteran and gave my body up, during my best years, in the service of our great nation.  Now, as a licensed mental health provider, father of three, a husband, and a combat veterans advocate I have accumulated over twenty-five years of first hand experience as to the benefits of marijuana.  In 2015 I became one of the first to legally attain a Medical Marijuana Card in the state of Connecticut.  Within six months I no longer needed opioids to treat the pain associated with my injuries. Within a year I was off of all SSRI’s and SNRI’s.  I got my life back and my children got their father back.  I have watched this plant free our citizens from opioid addiction and have witnessed medical marijuana reshape (for the better) the lives of those using it to treat a wide range of symptoms.

Our agency boasts of no suicides amongst our combat veteran members. I have also watched medical marijuana stop multiple suicides and enable our combat veterans to reclaim their lives and find purpose. I am a first person witness to the efficacy of this plant. Now, as a South Carolina resident, I would be a felon were I to use it in this state. I love South Carolina, but since moving here I have been forced to again utilize the pills that are making so many of us sick. These legal prescriptions that I must now take to treat my symptoms have had less than desirable side effects. Such side-effects were simply not present when I had the option of medical marijuana through other legal avenues.

As far as it being a “highly addictive gateway drug” I have never used another drug that was not prescribed to me and when I could no longer use medical marijuana because I had moved to SC I did not go through withdrawal. I had a few sleepless nights (due to returning pain) that was it.  Try stopping opioids and SSRI’s and watch how withdrawal symptoms (within 4 hours) result in nausea, vomiting, depression, diarrhea, and suicidal ideation.  Please do not forget that in almost every mass killing, the perpetrator was on some form of legal prescription drug.  Marijuana alone has been associated with no such violence and no overdose deaths.

Remember, America has an opioid crisis, not a marijuana one. Perhaps you are fighting against the wrong social ill.  I welcome you to discuss this greater and remain eager to collaborate with anyone truly interested in public safety.  Especially where our current laws are not in symbiosis with current research.

Respectfully Submitted,

Daniel R. Gaita MA, LMSW
Founder & Director, Operation Vet Fit
www.operationvetfit.org

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