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Veteran Faces Jail Time for Treating PTSD With Medical Marijuana

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Hudyma Natallia

In 2003, former U.S. Navy Corpsman Jeremy Usher returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, only to suffer from flashbacks of combat and a variety of mental health issues, including nightmares and insomnia, panic attacks, and depression. Thanks to medical marijuana, he is doing better, but is now facing jail time for choosing a medication the federal government refuses to legitimize. 

A combat medic, Usher was on the back of a helicopter sent to rescue wounded marines when he was shot in the head, causing brain damage and memory loss and leaving him with a stutter. When he walked out of a treatment at a San Diego  hospital, he was still not well, and according to the Greeley Tribune, "suffered form extreme paranoia as he wandered San Diego, constantly spinning around while walking to make sure no one was sneaking up on him." 

According to the the Greeley Tribune, Usher then began self-medicating with alcohol, marking the beginnings of his criminal record. He is currently serving probation in Colorado -- where pot is now legal for adults -- for his second and third DUIs.  Usher says he is cleaning up in his act in counseling and school, but is facing jail time for violating probation by treating his PTSD with medical marijuana nonetheless. For failing dozens of drug tests, he could do 29 days in jail. 

Usher told the Greeley Tribune he feels like he is "being punished for being a little different" and "not understanding why." His doctors have written letters to the court explaining that medical marijuana and Marinol pills have helped treat his PTSD, and they recommend he stay on it. Nonetheless, America's draconian drug policy is now threatening to send a traumatized veteran to jail, where he worries his progress could begin to reverse

Surely, living without medication in jail,  where the environment is often unpredictable and violent, is not beneficial to a PTSD sufferer's mental health. Moreover, if Usher is abstaining from drinking and using medical marijuana to treat the PTSD that caused his self-medication and run-ins with the law in the first place, identifying the public safety threat that might justify his incarceration is difficult, to say the least. 

Usher maintains hope that he will be allowed to continue his medication, but also wants to prevent the same consequences for other veterans. 

"I want to raise enough awareness so that this doesn't happen to guys coming out of there," Jeremy told the Greeley Tribune

"I'm never going to be free of the flashes of the memories; I'm stuck with those for life. What I'm able to do is manage those in an appropriate manner, without just going out and cracking open a bottle."

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