Medicinal marijuana, cannabis growing industry for veterans

SHERWOOD, Ark. – From chronic pain to PTSD, veteran health has been a national topic of debate for generations.

But a growing movement has veterans finding relief in plants, switching from pill bottles to buds and easing their pain through cannabis.

According to the National Institutes of Health, veterans are twice as likely as the general population to die from an opioid overdose, a statistic sending many away from pharmacies and into dispensaries in states where medicinal marijuana is legal. 

For Navy veteran Jimmy Carmichael, cannabis came as an option after his second shoulder surgery. The veteran of 8 years had torn both while active duty and was prescribed opioids as a way to cope with the pain. 

“It was a feeling that I didn’t like,” Carmichael said, describing nausea and brain fog that accompanied pain relief. In addition, the increased possibility of addiction and overdose sent him looking for another option. 

Soon, he found another treatment: medicinal marijuana, which also helped with his anxiety and insomnia in one fell swoop. 

“The product works,” explained Brian Faught, CEO of Natural Relief dispensary in Sherwood. He’s seen the popularity of cannabis grow over the years, sending thousands into his showroom for ailments like chronic pain and arthritis. 

Faught has a special dedication to veterans, a focus that came from his brother, Michael; a disabled veteran himself who passed four months before the opening of Natural Relief. 

“Right up until the end, it was his dream to see the place open,” Faught said, referencing a picture of Michael that hangs next to the entrance of the showroom. “Freedom isn’t free and our veterans will always be cherished in here.”

It’s a feeling of relief that Carmichael believes would benefit other veterans, a prime option for those looking for treatment without the danger of opioids. 

“War and being in the military and experiencing some of the things that some of us veterans experience, it can be overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve had friends that have been in the war and seen things that most people haven’t seen, and it helps them.”

Federally, marijuana is still a controlled substance and thus can’t be prescribed or recommended by any VA provider, although medicinal use won’t impact eligibility for benefits. 

But lawmakers and veterans alike are hoping more research can be done into its benefits, with a cannabis research act the latest to advance out of the House Veteran Affairs Committee. 

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