January 25, 2022
Columbia, SC – The Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives today urged the South Carolina
Senate to learn more about the veteran’s journey as they deliberate about approving medical
cannabis legislation this week.
The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, under consideration by the Senate this week,
would create a comprehensive medical cannabis program administered by the Department of
Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) which would allow patients with certain specific
debilitating conditions, and a recommendation from their physician, to access cannabis
products from state-licensed dispensaries.
VAHA Founder and CEO Gary Hess, who served in the United States Marine Corp as an enlisted
infantryman and officer, served multiple combat deployments in Iraq, during some of the
heaviest levels of fighting. He came home suffering from traumatic brain injury, chronic pain,
and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among other conditions. He turned to medical
cannabis after everything else failed.
Hess traveled to South Carolina today to meet with VAHA supporters and carry the message
that veterans deserve the freedom to use safe, medical cannabis approved by a physician.
“Veterans, and all South Carolinians, should have the freedom to pursue health care options,
just like their family members and friends in 36 other states. The SCCCA is a basic step to allow
patients and their doctors to chart a course to more effective health outcomes,” Hess said.
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 opiod addiction than other
“We will help the senators understand what’s at stake for our veterans and those with chronic
health conditions. As the current health care crisis plays out in the veteran community, the
medical freedom to pursue other options, like cannabis, seems like common sense.”
Hess concluded, “These men and women have fought for their country, made sacrifices that
have changed their lives forever. South Carolina veterans are asking for the basic right to seek
safe, legal cannabis, obtained from a doctor, rather than off of the street. Are we really going to
tell them “No?”