[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]
Military Pot Mythology
This is simply a statement of fact: I have never smoked pot. This is not intended to reflect my thoughts or opinions on the matter of lighting up a joint, nor is it intended to cast aspersions on anyone who chooses to smoke weed. For the record, I was a drinker which, by my non-scientific observation, causes the greater addiction and greater mayhem in our society. Anyway, let’s stick to the pot issue.
Pot in Combat
I served in the combat infantry as a squad leader. No one, and I mean no one, under my authority ever left base camp (e.g., for an ambush) under the influence of any impairment-inducing substance. My time in Vietnam was 1966-67 and maybe that has something to do with the minimal use of marijuana. I don’t know. And because the combat infantryman is the guy on the ground, in the jungle doing the fighting, drug use would be suicidal.
That is speaking for me. I’ve read and heard that later on in the war there was more drug use than when I was in Vietnam. I accept that on face value, but I can’t relate to it. I cannot fathom going on a mission with guys who were high.
Pot in Camp
Now, I would be a liar if I said there was no pot use in Vietnam while I was there. A few guys in my outfit smoked during down time in base camp. But many more drank–I among them. I remember bringing my beer with me into a trench during a mortar attack … Hell, I reasoned, if a mortar hits close enough to kill me, I’m dead anyway. Likewise, if a mortar does not hit close enough to kill me, I may as well enjoy the buzz.
Pot at Home
Unfortunately, too many people link combat veterans with drug use. From the anti-war protests of the ’60s onward Vietnam vets were assumed to be drug abusers, at least, and at worst, baby killers. The guys I knew who smoked in Vietnam had picked up the habit in the States before arriving at my tent. It was not an acquired taste.
Today there is a growing movement in New Jersey, my home state, to medicate PTSD sufferers with weed. Here’s the kicker: “… a Phoenix doctor is preparing to recruit volunteers with PTSD to smoke two joints daily at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix in the next few months as part of a $2.2 million research project.” (Jan Hefler, www.philly.com/burlcobuzz)
Military veterans and New Jersey lawmakers are lobbying Gov. Christie with new vigor to approve a bipartisan bill that would allow marijuana use to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. In the past, the Christie administration had rebuffed requests to add the condition to the list of ailments that qualify for cannabis use.
But Christie did not rule out signing the bill when asked about it two weeks ago at a news conference. “I’ll read it,” he said, softening a bit from his oft-repeated previous statements that he would veto any expansion of the six-year-old medical marijuana program.
This should be a medical issue, not a political one. Currently, there are 25 states with legal marijuana programs–17 of them include PTSD as a qualifying condition. Governors come and go, as should all of the political class. PTSD is forever. I do not see pot as a panacea for all that ails us. But if smoking a joint gives even temporary solace to those who suffer, lighten up.