Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find a pretty great piece on Florida’s in-the-starter-blocks medical marijuana industry, which is gearing up in the likely (according to polls) event that Amendment 2 passes in November. But likely is not certain, especially given the 60-percent hurdle constitutional amendments have to clear, and the probability that this off-year election will be dominated by the same old, white conservatives who four years ago stuck us with Skeletor as governor. And so, as Election Day nears, your television will be inundated with stories: Reefer Madness-esque tales of erstwhile angelic adolescents hooked on the devil’s weed, heartstring-tuggers about Grandpa finally getting relief from Parkinson’s, etc. I wanted to take this occasion to share a brief story of my own.

First, an admission: I’m pro-drugs. Or, rather, I believe the War on Drugs has been an abject failure, and that pot — and probably cocaine and mushrooms and molly and whatever else is powering dorm rooms these days — should be at the very least decriminalized, and better yet legalized, regulated and taxed (like alcohol and tobacco).  History, after all, has shown demonstrably that eradicating vice is a fool’s errand. 

I digress. The story I wish to tell concerns one of those old, white conservatives who voted for Rick Scott in 2010 and will probably do so again, someone I’ll refer to here only as a friend for reasons that I hope are obvious. 

My friend served in Vietnam, and there witnessed things that shook his young psyche to the core. It would take another four decades for the Veterans Administration to declare him disabled due to post-traumatic stress. In the meantime, he tried to quell the anxiety and nightmares through drink and hard drugs, then family and religion, then psychiatric treatment. None of it worked. The demons never went away. He still fell into black holes of despair, weeks and months when the depression took over and he had to stave off suicidal thoughts.  

But disability allowed him to retire, and retirement meant no more drug tests. So he bought some grass, and it worked for him like nothing else had. He was finally able to relax. Now, every afternoon at about 5 o’clock, my friend sits on his back patio and watches the birds in his backyard and smokes a bowl. Then he eats and reads or watches TV and goes to bed. He’s doing very well. 

He’ll never be completely free of PTSD, but at least he’s no longer enslaved by it. Marijuana, I’m convinced, helped save his life.

His story is anecdotal, but he’s not alone: Right now, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are lobbying the federal government to test marijuana as a treatment for PTSD. “Anecdotally, we’re hearing it’s working,” a member of the IAVA’s legislative staff told the Washington Times last week, “but we want to have evidence behind it to understand the positives and negatives.”

I’m not under the illusion that pot is a cure-all, or naïve enough to say its legalization will be without unintended consequences. But I find it galling that, in the eyes of Florida law, my friend is a criminal who must risk jail and the black market to get his medicine — and that there are moral crusaders out there who think this is somehow good policy. 

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