Leo Bridgewater was an Army Specialist who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked with some of the Army’s highest ranked officers as a communications liaison before retiring with an honorable discharge. Having struggled with PTSD himself, he was acutely aware of the absurdity of treating his condition with opiates and anxiety medications, which only masked symptoms and made him feel more like a zombie than anything else.
“The V.A. passes out pills like they were candy,” he said. Despite a federal policy allowing veterans to keep their V.A. benefits if they opt to use cannabis in states where it’s legal, Leo is not convinced that openly talking about PTSD or cannabis won’t cost military personnel their security clearances or other military benefits. He’s also concerned that most V.A. doctors are still either unwilling or ill-equipped to recommend cannabis as an option for veterans with PTSD. With cannabis therapy, Leo said, “I was no longer suffering with PTSD, I was living with PTSD.”
After learning that several veteran friends took their own lives in suicide, Leo became an activist for cannabis. He was one of three veterans asked to testify before the New Jersey State Assembly, when an amendment adding PTSD as a qualifying condition to the state’s medical marijuana law was under consideration. He has since traveled throughout the United States advocating on behalf of veterans in other states’ legislative hearings and speaking at events. He is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice over the unconstitutional classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. He invites veterans to connect with him through his nonprofit organization, New Jersey Cannabis Commission and at Facebook/LeoBridgewater.