- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An Iraq War veteran handed out over a half-pound of marijuana during an event in Colorado Springs on Saturday, and he plans to spend $25,000 for a similar event on Veterans Day in hopes of helping his fellow servicemen deal with post-deployment disorders.

Veteran Farmers Alliance founder Steve Defino told a local NBC News affiliate Monday that his life changed about three years when he began using marijuana to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder that has plagued him for a decade.

“I would go three to four days without sleep at a time. With the assistance of cannabis and edibles, I’m able to go to sleep,” he said.

In an effort to ease the symptoms of other vets, Mr. Defino teamed with the Dab Lounge, a private club, to freely distribute about a half-pound of marijuana and various weed-infused edibles to anyone with a military ID.

“I’ve seen other organizations operate, and I’m not very happy with the way they do it,” he told NBC. “They need to be donating more and doing more to show these guys that they actually care.”

Mr. Defino said he Saturday’s “Springbake” event set him back about $1,400, but he’s prepared to spend nearly twenty times that amount for a followup event he’s planning for Veteran’s Day in November.

“It’s just a Band-Aid, but for these guys it’s a start,” he said. “It gets them out of isolation and able to mingle with civilians and re-integrate into society.”

While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states on its website there is currently “no evidence” that marijuana effectively treats post-traumatic stress disorder, 10 states since 2009 have allowed doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients suffering from PTSD.

Between 2002 and 2015, VA data suggests the proportion of veterans who have been diagnosed as being marijuana-dependent has surged from 13 percent to nearly 23 percent.

“Marijuana may initially provide some relief” but “it’s very hard to stop it once you start it,” Dr. Karen Drexler, the VA’s deputy national mental health program director for addictive disorders, told The Associated Press. “It gets into this vicious cycle.”

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