A free cannabis giveaway at a Colorado Springs hotel Saturday attracted about a thousand people looking for an alternative medication for their physical and mental pain.
Roger Martin, the executive director and co-founder of Operation Grow4Vets, which put on the event, said the group's goal is to bring cannabis to veterans with service-related conditions as an alternative to pain medications.
"It isn't going to hurt them as much as the prescription drugs," he said.
Martin, an Army veteran, said he struggled with prescription drug use to help with what he called "24-hour" pain and an inability to sleep.
"I just need something to take the pain away during the day," he said.
Martin said he discovered edible marijuana as a way to reduce pain and help him sleep more, and he wants other veterans to have the same chance to address ailments.
Matt Kahl, a former Army specialist who works for Operation Grow4Vets as a director of horticulture, said using marijuana saved his life and reduced his dependency on pain medication.
Kahl said he was injured when serving in Afghanistan when he was thrown from a vehicle, causing a traumatic brain injury and hurting his spine and back. As part of his recovery, Kahl started taking more than a dozen pain medications per month. After a suggestion from a friend, Kahl started using marijuana to help with the pain. Now, he said, he is off all but two of his medications.
"It doesn't make sense that our first line of defense is toxic medication," Kahl said.
He said marijuana use lessened his symptoms of hyper vigilance and pain, and he moved to Colorado,
"I would not be alive without this," Kahl said.
People who came to the hotel Saturday were given a bag of items that included cannabis oil, an edible chocolate bar and seeds to grow plants.
Martin said some might have been disappointed because they were not handing out bags of marijuana, but that was not his group's goal.
"We're not about getting people high," he said,
Martin said the organization plans to have at least three more events this year, including another in Colorado Springs. Operation Grow4Vets also sponsored an event last weekend in Denver, which Martin said attracted hundreds of people, but the event in Colorado Springs, he said, attracted about 1,000 people.
Adults 21 and older were allowed into the event, and a $20 dollar donation for nonveterans was encouraged. Free products were available to people who sent in an RSVP by Thursday afternoon.