Twenty22Many Veterans Chronicles - T.J. Thompson


   Hello to all of our proud men and woman who have served this country honorably and
those civilians who support all veterans of the armed forces. Welcome back to the
March issue of Hightimes and the Twenty22Many Veterans Chronicles. This is where I
cyber travel across America month in and month out to speak with legendary and long
working Veteran and Cannabis Activists about the current state of affairs in their home
state, county and cities.


   I'm very proud and honored to be traveling back to the east coast to visit Virginia. Like
many of our Veteran/Cannabis Activists I have also had the honor of fighting for Medical
Cannabis Legalization with our next Veteran Chronicles subject T.J. Thompson. I met
T.J. five years ago at a ASA (Americans for Safe) Conference in D.C. where at the time
T.J. was still fighting for legalization in Virginia and I was celebrating Washington State
being one of the first states to go fully legal and getting PTSD added to Washington
States list of qualifying conditions for Medical Cannabis use. At the time we didn’t know
it but we both had a mentor in common. Mike Krawitz from VMCA (Veterans for Medical
Cannabis Access). Right off the bat I realized we (the movement) had a huge asset in
T.J. Not only was he a passionate veteran he was able to communicate to law makers
his truth about Medical Cannabis. I remember thinking what a courageous and brave
fellow.


   Just like all of our interviewees for the Veterans Chronicles, T.J. Thompson served his
country with honor and distinction in the United States Navy from 1998-2004.
Thompson served on the U.S.S. Portland, and was stationed in the Persian Gulf.
Thompson would ultimately be sent back to his home state of Virginia for his last year to
muster out of the Navy at Naval Air Station Oceana Detachment Virginia.
Thompson was raised in Chesapeake, VA where he currently resides with his family
and is a community and national organizer volunteering as an advocate with many
groups and organizations.

 

Thompson is one busy activist. Such as:

 

  1. •Poor People’s Campaign (https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org)

  2. •About Face: Veterans Against the War (https://aboutfaceveterans.org) and

  3. •Drug Policy Alliance (https://drugpolicy.org)

   He has worked directly with the U.S. House and Senate on marijuana policy reform for
veterans and currently engages in ongoing work locally with Hampton Roads Poor
People’s Campaign. As of late T.J. is in the process of getting a Masters Degree in
Humanities at Old Dominion University with an emphasis in critical cultural analysis.
Wow! This guy is a beast. Incredible.


   Without further ado, let’s dive right into the current state of affairs in Virginia and the
town of Chesapeake through the eyes of T.J. Thompson. Honorable Veteran and possibly the hardest working Veteran & Cannabis Activist in the entire state of Virginia.

 

State you live in:
Virginia.

 

City you live in:

Chesapeake; it’s in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area which includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach; on the Southeast coast.
 

1) What can you tell us about your very personal relationship with cannabis?


   I began medicating with cannabis in 2011 when I realized the pills the Department of Veterans
Affairs hospital provided were not working. I used cannabis recreationally and friends suggested
medicinal use where I pay attention to dosing and frequency of use in conjunction with my
mental health and chronic pain issues. I then realized many fellow veterans were also using
cannabis medicinally but we weren’t openly discussing it as a community.


   Preparing for a podcast out of Colorado, I reached out to Michael Krawitz of Veterans for
Medical Cannabis Access through online contacts because my research showed he was working
diligently on cannabis policy reform for veterans. He is also a fellow Virginian. By early 2013
we were working together with federal legislators, including Reps. Blumenhauer, Rohrabacher,
and Farr. I also helped start Safe Access Virginia and was the founding chair from 2013-15. We
focused on educating the state legislature and had numerous cannabis policy reform bills
introduced during those years. I worked on the CARERS Act, the first medical cannabis
legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate, together with Americans for Safe Access, Drug Policy
Alliance, and Marijuana Policy Project in 2015.


   Before medicating with cannabis my friends described me as being in a zombie-like state from
my depression and the medicines the VA gave me. I also dropped out of community college in
2015 with one semester remaining. Because of medical cannabis, today I am wrapping up a
graduate degree. I am an empirical study as to how medical cannabis benefits veterans.

 

2) Where can Veterans find cannabis in your city or state?


   Although Virginia claims to have medical cannabis, it is all but inaccessible because the
dispensaries have been slow in opening and the Commonwealth only approved a
handful of them. I don’t know of an active dispensary within 50 miles of my residence.
Further, the recommendation process is tedious and I don’t have a provider participating
in the program.


   Cannabis is decriminalized in Virginia so I cultivate my own. I also seek products I am
unable to make myself on the black market.


3) How long has your state been legal for Medical Cannabis?


   We do not have legal cannabis in Virginia yet. Medical cannabis was approved a year or
two ago but is inaccessible currently. The Virginia General Assembly is expected to
legalize recreational cannabis next year, but I anticipate it to play out like medical cannabis has with no retail access for a year or two and much confusion. The budding
Virginia cannabis industry seems to be controlled by major corporate players and pays
little attention local input.


4) Do you have Retail Cannabis yet?


   See above answer.


5) what advice do you have for Veterans wanting to make that jump from Big Pharma to
Medical Cannabis in your state?


   I always advise veterans to do whatever is comfortable to their situation. Many are afraid to
medicate with cannabis because they have federal jobs or other employment where the risk of a
drug test would mean losing their jobs.
I provide advice across the spectrum from trying CBD and hemp derived medicines, to the black
market, to cultivating their own, and finally going to a nearby state where it is legal and
purchasing it there.


6) Who has been your mentor as an activist?


   I have many mentors as an activist. They include Ryan Harvey, Michael Krawitz (VMCA),
Steph Sherer (ASA), Rick Doblin (MAPS), Dan Riffle (formerly MPP and now Sr. Counsel and
Policy Advisor in U.S. House of Reps.), and Michael Collins (formerly DPA) to name a few.

 

7) At what moment or life event do you realize cannabis is the answer. When did you
know for sure Cannabis was indeed your remedy?


   The moment I realized cannabis (and other entheogens) were the right answer was in 2011 when
I quit my mental health pills cold-turkey using cannabis and experienced no withdrawals. I then
naturally cut back on consuming alcohol and became more engaged in my own life.

 

8) What side projects have you worked on to further the hopes of Medical Cannabis
Legalization?


My recent activist efforts are focused with the veterans’ peace movement through groups like
About Face: Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Poor People’s Campaign: A
National Call for Moral Revival. I bring my experiences from drug policy reform to these spaces
providing insight into prohibition which is a major plight of poverty and violence in the U.S.

 

9) Most serious Veteran/Cannabis Activists have fought for legalization in D.C. Have
you spent time in D.C. fighting for Medical Cannabis Legalization? If yes what brought
you there?


   See previous answers.

 

10) Who in your home state (Law Makers, Senators, Congress men/woman) has fought
the hardest in your eyes for Medical Cannabis Legalization?

 

   I don’t see any of the elected officials in my state fighting hard for cannabis legislation. Rep.
Bobby Scott, my Congressman, has a record in Congress for supporting criminal justice reform
and worked with Drug Policy Alliance in the past. Del. Steve Heretick, my state level
representative, is one of the proponents in the Virginia legislature proposing cannabis policy
reform and was the chief patron of the decriminalization bill. Due to my focus on a graduate
degree since 2018 I have not been involved with these efforts. There is also a lack of groups
representing the People’s interests and are instead pushing policy that appears more focused on
corporate concerns.

 

11) how long have you been in medical cannabis user. What’s your preferred method of
medicating Vape, Dab, Smoke or Edibles?


   I began medicating with cannabis in 2011. I use numerous methods of ingestion. My preferred
and most frequent are smoking dried flower and tincture. I also enjoy hash and other extracts but
they are hard to find in my area at a reasonable price and quality (I’m always open to help
acquiring these products from those with access). I do make my own edibles and have a
delicious, potent batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies to help me make it through the
rest of 2020.