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Kurt Wallace: This is Kurt Wallace and our guest today on Rare is Roger Martin Executive Director of Operation Grow4Vets and Roger, thanks for being with us today on Rare.
Roger Martin: Thanks Kurt, I really appreciate it.
Kurt Wallace: You are an U.S. Army veteran, you’ve had constant pain since the 1970s and a doctor prescribed you the highly addictive narcotic Oxycontin. Tell us what happened that brought you to today?
Roger Martin: Well, it’s a long story but I’ll make it short as short as I can. As you said, I was taking Oxycontin. I was prescribed Oxycontin pretty much when it first came out. And was also taking Ambien and by October 2010 I was taking 180 mg of Oxycontin a day and 20 mg of Ambien at night just to get one or two hours of sleep at night. And you know I knew that was a dead-end street obviously with all the people that were dropping dead with the combination of those two drugs. And I happen to be in Lake Tahoe area at the time and a doctor recommended I try cannabis for pain relief.
Kurt Wallace: What was your reaction to him suggesting that?
Roger Martin: Well, actually it was a her. But I had a pretty negative reaction to it in that I have a background many years ago in law enforcement. All of my kids are athletes. So, I’ve always been very anti-drug and I considered marijuana to be a drug and I kind of bought into that idea, like so many other people have over the years. So, I was not excited about it and also I’d been a heavy smoker until the mid 80s and so I certainly wasn’t willing to smoke marijuana. She told me that I could get it in an edible form which I ended up doing and giving it a try. And that assisted me greatly in October 2010 quitting taking all of the narcotic pain medication I was taking as well as Ambien. Now I just eat an edible before I go to bed at night and that allows me to sleep anywhere from four to six hours a night. Which is really good for me.
Kurt Wallace: Now, when you tried to get off of the Oxycontin what happened?
Roger Martin: Well, I tried twice cold turkey actually and had to be hospitalized. It’s very dangerous to try to get off of Oxycontin if you’ve been taking any quantity of it for any amount of time. And as I said I was taking 180 mg a day. You now so it can actually result in your death. So, it’s not wise to do it without medical supervision but I’ve not always been great at follow through with instructions so I tried it anyway twice and it didn’t work out. So, in the interim I had met another doctor who had been treating using another narcotic drug called Suboxone to treat primarily rich young kids who were in the Tahoe area who were addicted to Heroin. And she never used it on anybody with Oxycontin but she told me it would work. And so I tried that and that’s when I was able to stop taking Oxycontin. What she did not tell me was is I was supposed to continue taking the Suboxone for 12 to 18 months which I later found out. And as a result I was able to ween myself off of that in five and a half weeks rather than 12 to 18 months.
What that resulted in Kurt was my having pretty significant withdrawal symptoms, especially at night. Which again made it difficult if not impossible for me to sleep. Sometimes I’d go three four days without any sleep at all. So, it obviously wasn’t working so that’s what really prompted me to try the medical marijuana which is desperation to not have to do anything to go back on any kind of narcotic medication. So, again since October 2010 I haven’t had to use any of those addictive dangerous drugs.
Kurt Wallace: Now, you started an organization. You’re the co-founder of Operation Grow4Vets. Your organization provides support for veterans soldiers dealing with problems like PTSD who are prescribed drugs versus medical marijuana. There is a high suicide rate among vets. Could you address this issue regarding prescription drugs and the suicide rate?
Roger Martin: Certainly! Unfortunately, over 20,000 veterans a year attempt suicide. And even more unfortunately over 8,000 of them or 22 a day are successful at taking their own lives. In addition to that every 19 minutes in the United States someone dies of prescription drug overdose and many of those people are veterans and of course they’re not counted in the over 8,000 who commit suicide every year. So, the number’s significantly higher than that. You know we deal with veterans that have been given 15, 20 sometimes even 23, 24 different drugs prescription medications. Many of which could kill them. Again many of them do die unfortunately.
I get emails every week and talk to veterans every week who are moving to Colorado for example just because they’re tired of being criminals in their own state. I have guys call me who tell me that literally they cannot live another day with all the drugs that the VA is shoving down their throat. And so, our goal or our mission is to do whatever we can to put a dent in the number of veterans who are dying. In my opinion in many cases being killed through the use of prescription medications.
Kurt Wallace: Now you’ve talked about Colorado. There’s several states that have legalized medical marijuana or just general use of marijuana such as Washington state. The veterans deal with PTSD but you also talk about TBI can you explain TBI and what’s important about the use of medical marijuana regarding traumatic brain injury?
Roger Martin: Well, TBI, PTSD, chronic pain symptoms from other serious medical conditions that don’t necessarily involve any type of injury are all being shown to be effectively treated with cannabis. One of the main issues with cannabis is that it generally results in a calming effect and so veterans with TBI or PTSD many of them tell me that that’s the only thing that works. None of the prescription medications that they’ve used works.
So, we’re hopeful that in the not to distant future we can get the VA to put pressure on the DEA who are I guess the primary hold outs to making cannabis legal. To get on board and come to the realization cannabis really is a medicine. We’re not about making veterans high. We rarely give out unless it’s donated to us for a drawing or something – we rarely give out actual cannabis or marijuana bud. Typically, we’re giving out oil or edibles or some infused form of cannabis or cannabis infused products so that veterans can use it to treat their medical conditions.
Kurt Wallace: Roger when you say you’re giving it out explain how Grow4Vets works. Operation Grow4Vets in terms of supporting soldiers or veterans that have these issues and some of the features of your organization in terms of safety and responsibility.
Roger Martin: Well, we test all of the product. Virtually all of the product that we put out. Everything that we put out is donated to us. We do have the equipment now to test everything in-house before it’s distributed. So, that’s our safety protocol if you will is everything is tested before its given out. Unless it’s packaged by another licensed manufacturer which obviously we don’t open it up and retest it. But any bud that’s used to make our oil or anything of that nature we do test to make sure that its safe before we give it to our veterans. And we do distribute it for free. Right now all of our everyone that works in our organization at the present time is a volunteer. We’re trying to maintain that as long as we can. But its been difficult because of our rapid growth.
Anyway we’re still able to maintain that so we operate strictly on donations. Obviously, we always need money and people can go to our website which is Grow4Vets.org and make a donation. We also have people obviously in the state of Colorado that donate cannabis and cannabis related products to us as well.
Kurt Wallace: Roger Martin executive director of Operation Grow4Vets the website is Grow4Vets.org that’s the number four, we appreciate you being with us today on Rare.
Roger Martin: Well thank you very much I appreciate the opportunity and thanks so much for helping us spread the word.