Twenty-two states now have medical cannabis laws on the books but Virginia is not among them.
One military veteran is waging a personal battle on behalf of veterans’ health rights everywhere to change that.
Every human being has a story to tell, and T.J. Thompson's begins with a simple but profound statement!
"I'm a U.S. Navy Veteran from 98' to 04' and I suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” says Thompson.
Thompson says he's tried traditional medicine in the Navy, for his PTSD, but it didn't work for him.
"But the anti-depressants actually make me suicidal, and I had the same experiences when I was in the military in 2001,” says Thomson. “So I decided to start trying marijuana and actually weaned myself off the prescription drugs I was on, and now it's strictly marijuana.”
“It doesn't completely get rid of the symptoms, but it definitely helps me manage,” he says.
NewsChannel 3’s Barbara Ciara asked him to describe his symptoms.
“My family would live in fear of the outbursts and rage and anxiety attacks I would have,” he says.
“I would go to my son's basketball game. I have hyper alertness, which means I’m extremely aware and on edge when I'm intense, well lit situations lots of noise,” says Thompson.
“[It] leads up to a panic attack where I completely lose it. I could be curled up on the kitchen floor crying like a baby,” explains Thompson.
"Give me an example of how cannabis improves your life?” asked Ciara.
“When I started using the medical marijuana, cannabis as we prefer to call it by the scientific name, I would be more active. I go and I am more relaxed, I enjoy the game.
At the state capital, where he is part of the lobby group "Safe Access" he’s trying to convince Virginia lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana.
On MLK Day, he walked the halls of the General Assembly with his rough draft of what he hopes will be the "Virginia Medical Cannabis Act.”
The bill does not yet have a sponsor but Thompson says he did get positive feedback.
“It was a very successful day. First and foremost, we met with a lot of leaders in the General Assembly,” he says.
“So a lot people are seeing this as a human rights issue versus a republican or democratic issue; it’s something we just need to help each other out with,” explains Thompson.
Thompson sees this a productive day with an eye on major steps toward legal status next year.
"So it looks like in 2015 we will have medical cannabis legislation introduced in both the House and in the Senate which was very big for us,” says Thompson.