Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Greene: Injured Vet Wants Battle Over Pot To End

Injured Vet Wants Battle Over Pot To End
Consider the case of Kevin Grimsinger.
The 42-year-old former special-forces medic had served in Kosovo and Desert Storm before stepping on a land mine in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2001. He lost parts of both legs, broke his back in 13 places, shattered a shoulder and ribs and suffered injuries to several internal organs.
But by far, his toughest wounds are to his brain — textbook post-traumatic stress disorder.
That means flashbacks. It means struggling to sleep and thinking about suicide more often than he cares to admit. His nightmares are constant, he says. "They're bloody, they're noisy and they're gory."
After two years in hospitals, Grimsinger was released addicted "to every pain medication known to man," he tells me. It wasn't until turning to therapeutic cannabis, along with other prescriptions, that he says he has been able to function. Medical marijuana doesn't take away his trauma. But it gives him a break long enough to sleep.
Grimsinger has served on Denver's Commission for People with Disabilities and as a quartermaster at his local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. He works as a veterans advocate at Budding Health, a Denver dispensary, where he leads a support group of nearly 200 former service members.
Most have registered as chronic-pain patients. But just as Grimsinger's stumps are easier to spot than his brain injuries, what ails their minds is far more debilitating.
PTSD isn't a condition that

qualifies for medical-marijuana use in Colorado. Federally, the Veterans Affairs doesn't prescribe the drug and, by policy, threatens to cut off care and benefits to vets who test positive for using it. "Veterans feel incredibly disrespected on this issue, especially as it relates to PTSD," says Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access.
More than 18 percent of vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are traumatized.
"I'd much rather these guys come home and smoke a joint than take pills or drink or beat up their wives," Grimsinger says. "We've seen our battle. We've done our fighting. Don't make us continue to fight: Fight for sleep. Fight for appetite. Fight to get out of bed in the mornings."
He petitioned state Department of Public Health on Friday to add PTSD as a condition for legal medical-marijuana use. A rally is planned outside the health department at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Despite assertions by health officials to the contrary, his petition cites studies showing cannabis as a more effective treatment for trauma than most pharmaceuticals and with fewer side effects. It also cites a policy in Canada authorizing that government to pay for medical marijuana for veterans. California allows doctors the freedom to decide which conditions qualify.
In New Mexico, the only state citing PTSD as a qualifying condition, more users are registered for trauma than for pain. Health officials here fear a similar floodgate effect, not just among veterans but all Coloradans.
"They've been fighting us on this forever," says Martin Chilcutt, a former intelligence officer and chronic PTSD patient who led the campaign to legalize marijuana here in 2000.
Ten years after Coloradans passed Amendment 20, it is easier to get a marijuana card for carpal tunnel syndrome than for literally being shell- shocked. Call me a flaming liberal or a bleeding heart, but as public policies go, that is messed up.
"Yes, it is, ma'am," Grimsinger says. "Yes, it certainly is."

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