Report: Greeley veteran may go to jail for using marijuana to treat PTSD

GREELEY, Colo. - A Greeley veteran faces jail time for using marijuana to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the Greeley Tribune, former U.S. Navy Corpsman Jeremy Usher uses the drug medicinally to help him cope with sleepless nights, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, flashbacks and a severe stutter.

But after three DUIs, Usher’s use of marijuana violates his probation and puts him at risk of going back to jail.

Usher returned from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, where he was shot in the side of the head while serving as a combat medic, according to the newspaper. The injury left him with brain damage that caused many of his PTSD symptoms.

Usher drank heavily to cope with his symptoms and developed a criminal record including a DUI in California and two in Colorado, the newspaper reports.

After Usher served jail time and was sentenced to probation in Weld and Larimer counties for the DUIs, a judge denied his request to continue using marijuana medicinally during his probation.

Usher received a prescription for Marinol, a synthetic version of THC -- marijuana’s active ingredient --  that is highly expensive at about $18 per pill, the newspaper reports. He also has a service dog named Rodney, who helps him awaken from PTSD-induced nightmares and calms him during flashbacks.

Usher says that the justice system is not flexible enough for veterans with PTSD because he must pay for the expensive Marinol but is not allowed to use medical marijuana, according to the newspaper.

“The court systems are very black and white, and PTSD is the definition of gray area,” said Usher, 31, in a quote provided by the Tribune. “They’re not acknowledging the gray area.”

According to the newspaper, Usher is now sober and succeeding in counseling, but he faces 29 days in jail for failing dozens of drug tests while using medical marijuana during his probation.

Usher’s doctors and others close to him wrote letters on his behalf saying that marijuana and Marinol have helped him, the newspaper reports.

Bob Small, the VA representative in the Aims Community College financial aid office where Usher attends classes, believes that preventing Usher from using marijuana will halt his improvement.

“Here’s something that’s helping him, but it’s creating a barrier,” Small said in a quote provided by the newspaper.

Weld County jail officials say Usher will be evaluated for medications he may need. District Attorney Ken Buck says that people who violate their probation by using marijuana must face consequences, the newspaper reports.

Usher worries that time in jail may mean that he will have no access to Marinol or other anxiety medications and that he will not have Rodney to help him, according to the Tribune. He hopes that he will be allowed to complete his probation using Marinol.