Colorado Veterans Receive Free Marijuana From Local Support Group

By Paul Gaita 03/30/16

The Veteran Farmers Alliance handed out over half a pound of marijuana to help local vets fight chronic pain and PTSD.

Colorado Group to Distribute Free Marijuana to Veterans
Photo via Shutterstock

While the government continues to debate whether medical marijuana can be used as a treatment for veterans’ physical and emotional issues, a Colorado-based group is providing direct support by giving free marijuana to former members of the military at cannabis-related events. Steve Defino, who founded the veterans support group Veteran Farmers Alliance, found relief from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through marijuana, and has tried to help others in his situation through giveaways at events like the Spring Bake at the Dab Lounge in Colorado Springs, which took place over the weekend. Defino handed out over half a pound of marijuana, as well as edibles, to attending vets, which cost him approximately $1,400. According to him, the price is well worth the chance to provide relief.

“I’ve talked to guys that are ready to kill themselves,” he said. “They’re ready to take their own life because they feel like nobody is there for them. So this is a small way to say thank you for what you’ve done.” After struggling with PTSD for a decade, Defino said that marijuana allowed him to “live my life again like a normal person."

"I’ve been able to actually go through my memories without getting upset anymore,” he told NBC4i. 

Vets have weighed in to support Defino’s charitable actions. Iraq War veteran Jacinto Delgado, who suffers from both PTSD and a traumatic brain injury, testified to the positive impact marijuana has made on his recovery over the last three years. “I would go three to four days without sleep at a time. With the assistance of cannabis and edibles, I’m able to go to sleep,” he said. “The veterans that receive [this] medicine, they’re able to sleep. They’re able to be more comfortable, not so hyper-active, hyper-alert. They’re able to let their guard down.”

Attitudes regarding the efficacy of marijuana on PTSD are divided. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is cautious about supporting the use of the drug, describing it as an “issue of growing concern” since there has yet to be a controlled study demonstrating that marijuana is a safe and effective method of relieving PTSD symptoms. As a result, the agency does not allow VA physicians to recommend medical marijuana in states where it is legal. (A provision in a bill that was passed last December came close to changing this policy, but the House removed it from the legislation before passing it.)

Research conducted at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and the University of Haifa in Israel, however, have shown that marijuana can block the development, if not the symptoms, of PTSD.

Veterans groups are actively lobbying to change the VA’s stance on medical marijuana. In the meantime, Defino plans to continue to do his part through his giveaways, the next of which is scheduled for Veteran’s Day in November at the Dab Lounge. "This saves lives," he told NBC4i. "This will take the depression or anxiety off their mind, at least temporarily, until they can find some more permanent help or relief." 

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.