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Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis touts legalization

FAIRMONT — Jeremy Sankey, founder of Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis, spoke in Fairmont on Tuesday evening, covering a variety of topics regarding the use of medical cannabis.

A veteran himself, Sankey began by sharing some of his story and why he believes medical cannabis use is important and why cannabis use in general needs to be legalized in Minnesota.

“I got into the VA medical system and it started out OK, but it changed,” he said. “By the time I hit 2015, I had swallowed almost 100,000 pills that were anything from opiate-based painkillers to anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). I’d get headaches everyday, I still have problems with ulcers, and my GI system is junk.

“So in 2015, I had someone tell me to just try this cannabis stuff. The first night I slept for eight hours straight, which I hadn’t done in 10 years.”

Sankey noted that the decision to continue using cannabis for medicinal purposes was not an easy one.

“I went through a flood of emotions,” he said. “I grew up a DARE kid, and I had it drilled into my head that cannabis was the worst thing ever. But it’s actually a medication, and I could have been using that the whole time instead of swallowing all those pills with all the damage they have done.

“So that’s where the organization came from. I thought there was no way that my story was so unique that nobody else could share it. So that’s what it was all about. It was reaching out to veterans and saying there are other non-toxic, non-lethal options.”

In addition, the organization testifies at the State Capitol on related bills, works with lawmakers and gives presentations such as the one in Fairmont to share its message. That message is the belief that there are legitimate uses and benefits of cannabis use, and discussions need to be had rather than quashed out of fear.

“One of the benefits is that people are no longer dependent on pharmaceuticals,” he said. “There is no deadly overdose possible, and cannabis is a natural, non-toxic option.”

Though there is a state program for medical cannabis use for Minnesota residents, Sankey said people encounter particular roadblocks that would not be an issue if cannabis were fully legalized. One of those issues is accessibility.

“Currently, there are seven dispensaries, one per district,” he said. “In the last [legislative] session, we got them to approve adding one more dispensary per district.”

However, Sankey noted that though patients can buy in certain areas, there are not necessarily doctors who will prescribe it in those same areas.

“A lot of doctors will not advertise if they do,” he said. “They advertise by word of mouth.”

Other issues facing veterans (and others) include high prices, travel limitations due to illness and whether people have qualifying conditions.

Sankey shared some of what he believes will be the benefits of full legalization.

“It will stimulate the economy,” he said. “It creates a lot of jobs. As of 2019, legal cannabis has created 211,000 full-time jobs nation wide.”

He also noted that tax revenue from legal sales could go toward a variety of programs, including education, infrastructure and social programs.

Sankey addressed what he believes to be one of the most common objections to legalizing cannabis.

“People talk about the gateway theory, but the overall gateway is the black market,” he said. “In addition, Adderall and Ritalin are a gateway to methamphetamines.

“Opiate-based painkillers are a gateway to heroin, but cannabis can be used as an exit drug. We have a lot of people that use cannabis that were hooked on heroin and meth. One of the worst things people deal with in trying to get off those drugs is the withdrawal symptoms and cannabis use can tame those.

“People say that people will misuse it, but people misuse stuff all the time. People go out to eat and get too many cheeseburgers.”

One person at the talk noted that people die every day from alcohol, yet it is legal and glorified.

Those looking for information on the state program can check out minnesotamedicalsolutions.com

Those who wish to learn more about Sankey’s organization can check out mnvets4cannabis.com

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