Local veterans optimistic as medical marijuana bill moves through General Assembly

Local veterans optimistic as medical marijuana bill moves through General Assembly
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 5:48 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Veterans across the country sometimes struggle to deal with the aftermath of combat. Physical injuries are one thing, but mental health conditions like PTSD are another, and can often be difficult to treat.

“The offramp for military service often times comes with a prescription for a sleeping aid, something to help with concentration, and then SSRI’s or something for pain management and something along those lines, and those create ‘zombie people’ in our opinion, and it’s just become the status quo,” says Marine Corps Veteran Rob Rens.

When legal prescriptions do not work, however, people have turned to other, sometimes illegal treatments for similar conditions. Rens says he knows several fellow veterans who have used marijuana, which is illegal in North Carolina. Rens has spent more than a year advocating for the drug to be legalized for medical use in his home state.

“I’ve just had numerous, numerous people reach out to me who said ‘I’m off pills now, I don’t drink alcohol anymore, I micro-dose medical grade cannabis that I source illegally, and it allows me to live in the present moment, to work through my trauma, to have conversations with my wife, or to not get triggered when things happen that would otherwise put me in the red.’,” Rens said.

Last year, state senators from southeastern North Carolina introduced Senate Bill 711, which would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis as a treatment, with the hope of helping people with debilitating conditions.

“Some of the debilitating conditions, they are terminal,” said Republican Senator Michael Lee, who represents New Hanover County, “To achieve as much quality as possible with the times they have left with other debilitating conditions, it may not be terminal, but it is a path for them to be able to, kind of, get back to as much of a normal life as they can.”

The bill passed its second reading in the senate last week, and is set for a final vote Monday evening. If it passes, it would advance to the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Rens says if medical marijuana is legalized, it would be a game-changer for North Carolina’s veterans.

“We know it’s going to be a huge benefit because people are doing it right now,” said Rens. “But to be able to have a law that covers that, too, is going to make it where people don’t feel like they’re criminals any longer for doing this.”

Lawmakers know the bill has some obstacles ahead, but believe it will help those who gave so much for their country.

“We’re not saying it’s going to solve everything, but it’s just another option that people have to help feel better and to help live a life that’s more meaningful and more purposeful,” said Rens.

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