Local marijuana legalization advocates say it will cut down on veteran suicide rates

Dozens of people gathered at the Island City Brewing Company today in Winona to talk about the benefits of legalizing marijuana.

Earlier this month, a Minnesota Senate committee rejected a bill that would have legalized marijuana.

Despite the bill’s rejection, marijuana legalization advocates said there are many reasons why it should be legalized.

The Minnesota Campaign for Full Legalization is traveling around the state to try and inspire residents to rally around marijuana legalization.

John Jones, an Army veteran and outreach coordinator with Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis said there are many reasons to legalize it, including economic benefits, a safer marijuana industry and even reducing suicide rates.

“It saved my life,” Jones said.

Jones served twice in Iraq, first from 2008 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2011.

“In my deployment, I was convoy security and personal security. I’ve gotten blown up by rockets, small arms fire, lots of human anatomy that you just don’t want to see,” Jones said.

When he came back home, he had chronic pain and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, so he was prescribed opioids.

“I felt alone, I felt angry, upset, and then they give you medications that don’t make you feel at all. You’re just walking around like a zombie,” Jones said.

The VA reports that around 20 veterans commit suicide every day in the U.S. Jones was almost one of them.

“I would spend hours, days sometimes, in a locked room. I would wait for my wife to leave just so I could call suicide hotline numbers just to hang on,” Jones said.

That’s when he tried marijuana and said the pain instantly stopped.

“There’s a lot of anger. There’s a lot of depression. You feel real sad. When you use cannabis for those things, it’s like an immediate relief ,” Jones said.

Marcus Harcus, the president of the Minnesota Campaign for Full Legalization, said it’s not just veterans who would benefit from the legalization of marijuana, it’s the entire state.

“Would we rather have it unregulated and untaxed or regulated and taxed?” Harcus asked.

He said the sale of marijuana isn’t going to stop, so the state should legalize it to make it safer.

“It’s on your corner, in your alley or it’s a safe store where they card people, where there’s security, where the products are tested and there’s quality assurance,” Harcus said.

Harcus is traveling with Jones around the state to try and get more people excited about marijuana legalization.

“We’re trying to organize a statewide campaign where we have people in every single district who are activated to lobby their legislators. There’s no reason to be ashamed or apologetic for consuming a natural healing plant. It’s alternative medicine,” Harcus said.

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