They fought for their country. Now they are fighting for the right to use medicinal cannabis and other alternative therapies.
In an Australian first, a group of Australian Defence Force veterans gathered in Nimbin on Saturday for the first monthly meeting of the ‘Weeded Warrior’ support group.
The grass-roots collective created by the veterans aims to educate ex-service personnel and the Australian public about the medicinal benefits of cannabis in treating stress, traumatic brain injuries and chronic pain conditions.
Weeded Warrior founder Michael Harding, who was medically discharged from the Australian Army in 2012 after having trouble reconciling certain experiences from his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, was diagnosed with conversion disorder and post traumatic stress.
The conventional treatments initially given to Harding made him gain weight, experience suicidal and homicidal ideation and withdraw from family and friends.
During this time he consumed large amounts of alcohol to escape.
‘We wanted to start a group that got Veterans out of their house, connecting with like-minded brothers and sisters and providing information that can help them reduce their dependence for pharmaceuticals and in turn, regain control of their lives,’ Mr Hardin said.
‘The pharmaceuticals we are prescribed, in combination with alcohol and isolation, are a deadly combination.’
‘Australian Forces have lost 41 soldiers over the 14 years of war in Afghanistan, yet last year alone there were 34 recorded veteran suicides.
‘This is a heartbreaking statistic and we have to do more to start the conversation. Unfortunately because of the stigma associated with cannabis, many ex-service members turn to alcohol for solace from their traumatic memories.
‘This has got to change and cannabis can help.’
Veterans travelled from as far as Brisbane and Ipswich to meet for a barbecue, and to talk openly about their medicine of choice.
‘We had Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans as well as a medically retired Fire and Emergency Services Paramedic and it was absolutely fantastic to see so many partners and family members come along as well. They are the real heroes if you ask me.’
‘One bloke said it was the first time he’d been out socially since December. He had everyone in stitches, you know, this guy was totally in his element but because of the medicine he chooses to use he is deemed a criminal and instead feels safer staying at home. That just encourages isolation and depression.’
Weeded Warrior will be holding their next Veterans meet up in Nimbin on Saturday the 23rd of July.
Anyone interested should RSVP to [email protected], providing proof of service to gain membership.
Partners, carers and families are encouraged to come along.
Follow Weeded Warrior on Facebook or weededwarrior.com to stay up to date on the next meet up.