The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2021 signaled the end of a twenty-year conflict, the longest in US military history. The combined war in Iraq and Afghanistan defined 21st century America, leaving a generation of veterans touched by the horrors of war. Many returned from deployment to an inadequate support network, largely abandoned or written off by a government that seemingly views the human cost of waging war as little more than a nuisance to be ignored.
Physical injuries and PTSD aren’t just problems for combat vets. Many who have served have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, dangerous situations, and traumatizing events regardless of their deployment, and they too often find the VA support system lacking. It’s no wonder that many vets find relief in alternative therapies, particularly cannabis, which can help with conditions ranging from the chronic pain of physical injuries to the inescapable anxiety of PTSD. Although the VA can’t legally recommend medical cannabis, veterans are a resilient bunch, steadfastly committed to their comrades, and as such there are no shortage of organizations dedicated to connecting vets with the resources they need to access plant medicine. Here are just a few.
Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives
Founded by a Marine Corp vet with roots in the cannabis industry, Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives seeks to connect military vets and first responders with medical cannabis, while furthering education on the topic and reforming policies in order to expand access. The VAHA website offers a portal for veterans and non-veterans alike in certain states to begin the process of applying for a medical cannabis referral card, and has plenty of resources aimed at expanding the conversation about cannabis medicine and alleviating stigma. Founder Gary Hess was central to the fight for medical cannabis in his home state of Louisiana, having found success in treating a host of issues developed during tours in Iraq.
Veterans Cannabis Project
The Veterans Cannabis Project is a leading source of vet-centric advocacy for medical cannabis, with their efforts grabbing the attention of the likes of The New York Times and The Washington Post. The group is dedicated to educating lawmakers, expanding access for those who have served, providing resources for vets looking for relief, and creating a much-needed sense of community. The organization’s current executive director is a US Air Force veteran, who says cannabis has brought relief from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD developed during his 21 years in service.
Weed for Warriors
California-based Weed for Warriors Project has been advocating for vets since 2014. The organization formed in response to the VA’s abysmal treatment and overmedication of vets. To educate vets and bring the lived experience of veteran cannabis patients to the attention of lawmakers, they organized a cross-country convoy to Washington DC. These days, the organization is focused on getting free cannabis medicine and low-cost referrals to vets in California, and recently created an online support group for vets with PTSD and their caregivers, in partnership with 100 Million Ways (an organization dedicated to reducing opioid dependency through expanded access to cannabinoid medicine).
Veterans Cannabis Coalition
Founded by two US Army veterans, Veterans Cannabis Coalition takes aim at expanding access to cannabis medicine through policy reform as well as lowering costs of cannabis medicine and home growing. The nonprofit works to push reforms within the VA system, prodding federal policy makers to recognize the efficacy of cannabis medicine as a treatment option for vets with the possibility of replacing more harmful pharmaceuticals. The VCC website speaks frankly about the racist origins of cannabis prohibition, the repeal of which serves as one of the organization’s primary goals.
Veterans Cannabis Group
According to their mission statement, the Veterans Cannabis Group is by veterans, for veterans. The organization seeks to connect vets with cannabis medicine, education, and assistance in navigating the often opaque VA benefits system, as well as assisting vets in finding opportunities within the cannabis industry. Founded by an US Army vet and an airforce vet, the VCG offers a wealth of experience with cannabis medicine. The organization is based in California, but looks to be expanding to other states.
Operation 1620 is the cannabis-centric wing of the Balanced Veterans Network, an organization dedicated to connecting vets with alternative therapies and community support. Through Operation 1620, they seek to connect vets with education about state cannabis programs, cultivation practices, processing techniques, and consumption methods. Vets looking to acquire a medical cannabis referral should look into Operation 1620’s reimbursement program, which offers up to $50 toward the cost of a referral for vets in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Delaware.
Veterans Walk and Talk
Dedicated to a relatively simple premise, Veterans Walk and Talk is all about creating a welcoming environment for vets to connect. The organization projects the value of exercise and community, but also offers a safe space for vets to learn about the benefits of alternative therapies such as cannabis and psychedelics. Veterans Walk and Talk offers a holistic, community-based approach to the myriad issues that can affect vets. Chapters are currently operating in California and Oklahoma.