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VAHA-SC rallies Vets for Compassionate Care Act Medical cannabis, medical freedom at the heart of the debate

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February 1, 2022


Columbia, SC – As the South Carolina Senate considers South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (SCCCA), veterans from around the state met at the capitol today, calling for the freedom to seek medical cannabis as part of their health care.

“We are members of the community, moms and dads, co-workers, first responders and health care workers. But we suffer more chronic ailments and are more likely to die by suicide. We have served our country and deserve the right to consult our doctors and have legal access to medical cannabis,” said Gary Hess, CEO of Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives said at the Capitol today.

Debate on the SCCCA began last week in the Senate, marking the first time that the chamber has considered medical cannabis legalization. It would create a highly-regulated medical cannabis program to allow seriously ill individuals to use and safely access medical cannabis when recommended by their physicians.

Hess explained that since 9/11/01, just over 7,000 US service members have lost their lives in combat. During that same period, 120,000 veterans have committed suicide and the numbers continue to climb every day with no end in sight. South Carolina has the highest population of veterans per capita in the United States, more than 350,000 representing 10% of the state’s population. They endure higher incidents of mental health issues, suicide, and opioid addiction than other populations.

Among those attending the rally at noon in the statehouse with Hess:

  • Don Howell, RN and Purple Heart recipient who served 22 years of active duty with the United States Navy
  • David Newsom, U.S. Army veteran and government affairs director at the nonprofit Compassionate SC a/k/a CSC.Health
  • Steven Diaz, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was severely injured while clearing IEDs in Iraq

Hess concluded, “Today and throughout this debate, we will help the senators understand what’s at stake for our veterans and those with chronic health conditions. As the current healthcare crisis plays out in the veteran community, the medical freedom to pursue other options, like cannabis, seems like basic common sense.”