Between 7 and 8 percent of the US population experiences Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, at some point in their life(1).
PTSD is a mental condition caused by a traumatic event or series of events. Sources of PTSD can range from sexual and domestic violence, to accidents or natural disasters, to witnessing the injury or death of another person.
Many soldiers return from war zones with PTSD – formerly known as “shell shock” among veterans.
Symptoms of PTSD from combat situations are notorious difficult to live with when untreated.
Medical Marijuana For PTSD: The Evidence
A recent survey found that when polled, more than 75 percent of doctors believe that marijuana has legitimate medicinal effects, and would consider prescribing it if it were legal(2).
The federal government may even be close to authorizing Veteran’s Administration doctors to be able to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from PTSD – but it’s an ongoing work in progress(3), and the delays have left many veterans – as well as civilians living with PTSD from other traumatic events – in the cold.
One Veteran’s Story
Veteran Kristoffer Lewandowski returned home to his wife and children after multiple tours of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps with PTSD.
In June 2014, he experienced a flare-up of PTSD symptoms – symptoms which can include flashbacks, panic attacks, paranoia, anger, and dissociation. While his wife took his children to their neighbor’s house in an attempt to de-escalate the situation and give him room to calm down, the cops were called in to help.
Instead of assisting Lewandowski with his mental health episode, the cops decided to search his house. They found several marijuana plants, which Lewandowski was growing to treat his PTSD.
Lewandowski was arrested on felony marijuana cultivation and possession of drug paraphernalia charges, in addition to a domestic violence charge(4) – despite the fact that his wife swears he was never violent towards her(5).
Due to the state of Oklahoma’s particularly stringent anti-drug laws(6), Lewandowski faced a possible life sentence in prison – all for growing medical marijuana to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder.
One Year Later…Charges Are Dropped!
According to the Free Kris Facebook page, Lewandowski was extradited from California to Oklahoma on July 9.
While he could still face charges in a military court, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Kristoffer Lewandowski no longer faces potential life imprisonment under multiple felony charges for possession of marijuana, which his wife insists he was growing to treat severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
This was all possible thanks to the support of the people, which lead to an astounding 20,000 signatures on a petition demanding his freedom. Another post on Facebook also credited the assistance of Kansas lawyer Sarah Swain, who drove to Oklahoma to defend the veteran pro-bono.
The Need For Change
Marijuana is currently classified in the United States as a schedule I controlled substance – meaning it’s considered more dangerous than crystal meth and cocaine.
The United States seems to be lagging behind several other countries when it comes to many states’ strict marijuana laws, including Canada and the United Kingdom. But until it catches up, many people living with post-traumatic stress disorder are faced with situations as impossible as Lewandowski’s.