PORT HUENEME, Calif. — At just 17 years old, Stan Hartman joined the U.S. Army, but one year later an injury cut his service short.
“Our commander wanted us to all be black belts so he brought in a red don master from Korea and he taught us all, our whole division. So, during that time I hurt my knee one time. I got a bad kick. So, I had to run on it and everything,” Hartman said.
During that time, his knee pain became worse. That’s why Hartman said he was first introduced to the idea of medical marijuana by his army doctor. Marijuana is still considered illegal in the military.
“One of my doctors recommended instead of getting pills or whatever, said ‘you might want to use this or you’ll be addicted’ and so I used that and it worked with my knee,” Hartman said.
Since then, he’s managed to avoid a reconstructive knee surgery by using medical marijuana to reduce the pain. Currently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will not prescribe or discuss cannabis with patients. Veterans on a fixed-income like Hartman, have to seek out the alternative medication on their own. Cannabis laws prior to 2020, also prevented many dispensaries and brands from gifting or donating cannabis
But a change in legislation led Barry Walker, the grandson of a WWII pilot and the co-founder of Tradecraft Farms, to provide cannabis gift bags through the Veteran Compassion Program the first Saturday of each month. The program was a result of a collaboration between Tradecraft Farms, Dear Cannabis Coalition and Veteran’s Cannabis Coalition.
“We wanted to help but then we reached out to our friends. You know there’s different brands and they wanted to help, too. So they all start to donate 25 pieces, 50 pieces, 100 pieces and we’re able to put that together and serve the men and women of the armed forces.
Hartman feels grateful to see shifting views on cannabis.
“It was like a freedom, finally, when the stigma was taken away. When people knew it was medicine that could take care of pain and help you,” Hartman said.
As cannabis laws continue to change, Hartman remains hopeful that more veterans will soon gain access to a natural prescription.