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Local group takes pot pledge to Washington

By DANIEL HERDA - dherda@perutribune.com

A grassroots organization that began in Miami County 14 months ago is taking its pledge to Washington D.C. on Sept. 13.

Launched by Peru’s Jeff Staker, “Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis,” will be holding a public forum in the Rayburn House Office building with an audience that could include senior Veteran’s Administration staff, Veteran’s groups and congressional staffers, Staker said. 

A U.S. Marine veteran and a Grissom Air Reserve firefighter, Staker said his organization has two goals. The first: reduce the amount of opiate overdoses related to veterans who have been prescribed pain medication. The second, which he says is aiming big: change the federal mandate on marijuana.

“We want to see marijuana no longer as a schedule 1 drug,” Staker said.

There will be a handful of medical minds speaking at the forum, which Staker said took approximately three months to put together.

Those addressing the Washington D.C. forum include: Donald Abrams, MD; Ziva D Cooper, PhD; Darryl Hudson, PhD; Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, and Jordan Tishler, MD.

Surveys show that 73 percent of Hoosiers and 85 percent of Hoosier veterans support medical marijuana over opiates, according to Staker.

If the schedule 1 certification is changed to a schedule 2 or schedule 3, then doctors will be able to prescribe medicinal marijuana to veterans who experience ailments like chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, and other physical and psychological conditions.

“If it is changed from a schedule 1, then it would be up to the states to regulate it after that,” Staker said.

Combating the opiate crisis is one of the groups’ goals with the initiative, as well as attempting to reduce the amount of veteran suicides as well.

Brandon L. Wyatt, attorney and Army disabled combat veteran, said: “With veterans representing seven percent of the American population, yet accounting for 20 percent of the national suicide rate, these numbers are unacceptable, and it is ‘all hands-on deck’ for all Americans to learn together and do more for those who selflessly serve our country.”

Joining the forum will be top Veteran advocate groups from across the country including: Veterans Cannabis Group, Marijuana for Trauma, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis and Operation EVAC, along with the Veteran founded cannabis educational organization Patients Out of Time.

“Veterans from all 50 states and US territories have fought tirelessly for freedom, in an academic setting, we are honored to address our injuries to continue to be of service to All Americans with the sincere hope of ending the Opioid crisis,” Wyatt said. 

Staker said the current opioid and suicide rate crisis is sparking several state and national officials to look into new ways of thinking – and that Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis is taking the stage to show national officials that there are options for veterans, Hoosiers, and all of America when it comes to pain management.

“We are going to fight until we win. The overdose rates in Indiana keep going up and up and we have to do something about that,” Staker said.

Staker said he spoke with C-Span about covering the event, but even if it’s not broadcast, he’ll make it available on youtube and Facebook. 

Staker said he was also planning on meeting with an official from Health and Human Services on Thursday. 

To RSVP for the event, contact: hoosiervetsformc@gmail.com