SALEM, Ore. - Two combat veterans told state senators on Wednesday how marijuana has helped them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and at times helped calmed one soldier's violent urges.
Jared Townsend, an Iraq war veteran, told senators that five of his military friends committed suicide after being prescribed drugs from the VA to treat PTSD. He thought marijuana would be a safer alternative.
"Ultimately I believe that's why I've been able to be a productive member again of society," he said. "I couldn't have done any of this without medical marijuana."
Members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary are considering a bill that would allow Oregonians to legally obtain medical marijuana to treat PTSD. Currently the disorder is not on the list of ailments doctors can prescribe marijuana to treat.
A second Iraq veteran also testified at the hearing, although he later told KATU he did not want his name published because he feared the testimony might adversely affect his job.
He explained how after coming back from war he had a short temper, going so far as to rear-end a car and get in an altercation at a grocery store.
He said once started using medical marijuana, which he first obtained to treat a bad back, his mood leveled out. He said it helped him think before reacting.
State Senator Betsy Close testified that she is against expanding the medical marijuana program.
Close told a story about watching a college-educated family member ruin his life away by smoking too much pot.
"Marijuana does damage the body and especially the brain," she said while citing a 1979 study about the dangerous effects of marijuana.
"All drugs have side effects. This drug has documented brain damage and sex damage," Close added.
State Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson submitted a letter to the committee urging senators to consider how marijuana will be kept away from minors, schools and parks.
"The effects of marijuana on the nervous system and development of our children, youth and young adults should be ever conscious on our minds," she wrote.
The judiciary committee will hold a work session next Wednesday to further discuss the bill. It has already been passed by the Senate Committee on Health Care and Human Services.
The bill is Senate Bill 281.