Veterans have emerged as the unlikely heroes in efforts to legalize drugs that include marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms, causing concern among U.S. attorneys and officials in Utah, where veterans are fighting against the state’s legalization of a drug linked to schizophrenia and depression.
The Veterans Association of Utah, which has more than 8,000 members, is fighting Utah’s Proposition 2, which would legalize the cultivation and use of small amounts of hallucinogenic mushrooms, the Mormon church’s influence on the state election and the lack of health benefit for users.
The state’s largest veterans’ organization began taking a stance on the drug for the first time in late April, saying it “contributes to veterans’ experience of flashbacks and psychosis.” In an op-ed, VAFU Utah Vice President Ryan Poulsen said while he used psychedelic mushrooms for personal reasons for years, he knew they are “risky and there is little clinical evidence to support their use.”
“I thought I was operating under the intent of the law and the protection of criminal liability of under the law,” Poulsen said, noting that they are “here and more people are taking hallucinogens than ever before.”
In Connecticut, a group of veterans, patients and U.S. lawmakers is fighting the state’s controversial medical marijuana bill in court, one that U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) last year said treated “sick and suffering veterans” as “entitled” and said he voted for.
A judge ruled earlier this year that the veterans’ group could go forward with its lawsuit against Connecticut, but the decision could be overturned if Connecticut’s governor chooses to appeal, according to the New York Times.
In a recent podcast interview with the Syracuse University student news site for Syracuse Spark, the veterans accused their counterparts in Connecticut of trying to overturn the state’s medical marijuana law in order to impose a single definition of what medical marijuana should be used for. Neal was present at hearings on marijuana legalization in Connecticut last year and advocated for the right of veterans to be helped.
A sense of a coming back from the past at times stings, as when lawmakers discuss the legalization of cocaine and LSD. Arizona State Sen. Frank Antenori, a Vietnam War veteran, was quoted recently in the Arizona Republic, complaining that in places like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California, young people grew up with easy access to hallucinogenic mushrooms and mushrooms.
“People said we were crazy when we used to chew through valium in the Vietnam era,” Antenori said.
To arrest marijuana users and cater to the whims of millennials is wrong. Former Guard Staff Sgt. Douglas Shadle
In an email, former Guard Staff Sgt. Douglas Shadle wrote that when he fought in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008, people weren’t allowed to be sent “back for treatment because they were getting too high, or really high.”
“It’s crazy they’re even trying to do this now,” Shadle said. “People smoked opium during World War II, and people smoked pot during the Vietnam War. To arrest marijuana users and cater to the whims of millennials is wrong.”
In 2012, the New York state Senate passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, but New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, vetoed it in 2013. Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed a medical marijuana bill in California in 2016, but voters rejected a similar measure in November.
California, where voters rejected a similar measure in November, is considered the leader on marijuana legalization. It has seen 25 medical marijuana bills pass, with five bills becoming law, since 1996. There are several states, however, where there have been no marijuana initiatives pass in the last two years.