I was heading toward Alewife on the Red Line last week reading a New York Times op-ed titled “Make Pot Legal for Veterans With Traumatic Brain Injury.” Written by Thomas James Brennan, a former US Marine Corps sergeant and the founder of the veterans’ news outlet the War Horse, the piece eloquently walks along the author’s journey and the trading of “pill bottles for pipes and papers,” which led to his feeling “less numb” and starting “to smile more often.”
Brennan, a Massachusetts native with whom I’ve enjoyed several discussions about joints and journalism, also points to the insulting problem that in states like North Carolina, where he currently lives, one still can’t legally attain a medicine that is demonstrably useful in cases ranging from post-traumatic stress to migraines and depression, not to mention the residual dependence on multiple drugs that can follow. (For more on Brennan, check out the brand-new book he co-wrote: “Shooting Ghosts: A U.S. Marine, a Combat Photographer, and Their Journey Back from War,” and look out for our upcoming DigBoston interview with Thomas.)
It’s always sickening when any patient can’t get easy access to the natural meds that they deserve. But the hypocrisy and stubbornness is only compounded when pondering the plight of veterans, who in many cases literally have to break the law—and face significant criminal charges in far too many jurisdictions—in order to get much-needed relief for injuries sustained while serving Uncle Sam and all of us. Thanks to advocates like Brennan and Stephen Mandile, the latter of the Commonwealth-based Veterans Alternative Healing (VAH), who are open about their experience and can really talk some sense into compassionate conservatives who have long ago been brainwashed on the issue, there’s been a fair amount of movement on this front—but not nearly enough, and it is maddening.
My stream of consciousness spurred on by Brennan’s piece led first to Tupac, naturally: You ever stop to think / I’m old enough to go to war but I ain’t old enough to drink. Also, though even the most outrageous contemporary isolated nightmares in the VA system are markedly different in context from the plight of disregarded Revolutionary War vets, comparisons to Shays’ Rebellion-era negligence may still be warranted in how innumerable soldiers have been driven outside of the insufficient and restrictive US system. Even as doctors and medical associations that have shilled for Big Pharma for decades are increasingly conceding that pot and derivatives are safe and effective treatment for myriad ailments.
I was stoned while on the T and reading Brennan’s article, and was also heading to pick up some top-shelf marijuana for a friend of friend; they have horrible digestion problems that beg for routine sweet leaf relief, but live in a place with overly restrictive access. Meanwhile, as I realized that I missed my stop, I noticed a tall jovial man using a walker step on board at Downtown Crossing. More specifically, my nose noticed that he was cracking open plastic jars of kind buds, inhaling the magic that he just purchased aboveground at the Patriot Care dispensary. We got to rapping about pot, and within 30 seconds I learned all about how, much like Brennan with his post-war complications and my friend’s visiting pal with their troubles, his difficulties with vision and mobility are best wrestled into submission by meds with such silly names as Cinderella 99.
Amazingly, my green friend on the Red Line mentioned that he reads the Dig, and he cited our review of that particular strain from last month. Though intended as a hybrid service-humor-lifestyle approach to covering cannabis, it turns out that dispatches from the consumer’s point of view are helpful right down to the highly personal medical level. All of the above miracle applications considered, it’s impossible to fathom the opposing view from any angle. Just a couple more reminders of the inspiration fueling countless media makers, from Brennan to the columnists who crank about dank for the Dig, to stand up proud and tall against an antiquated, discompassionate, and goddamn persistent opposition.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.