Veterans push for easier access to cannabis licenses

Veterans hope for better access to cannabis licenses
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 5:55 AM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Veterans face struggles when it comes to producing marijuana.

The legalization of marijuana is still in its early stages and the state government wants to prioritize five special groups to help them get licensed to sell.

Those groups are minorities, women, distressed farmers, people from low-income neighborhoods that were heavily impacted by the war on drugs, and service-disabled veterans.

Retired Sgt. Justin Battles is a local veteran-turned-farmer who wants to sell cannabis.

“Veterans are already a small group, we’re around two percent of the applicant pool, I think. If you shorten that to service-disabled veterans, that’s even less.” he said.

He says it would make sense to prioritize veterans as a whole because marijuana is a massive benefit for them.

“Veterans just face those issues that cannabis helps a lot more. Like PTSD, anxiety, pain, all of those are ussies veterans face a lot, statistically higher than people that are not veterans.” he said.

Another frustration for veterans is lack of representation on these legal issues. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the Cannabis Control Board, and the Cannabis Advisory Committee all failed to get a veteran liaison.

“We need to at least have someone be our voice in the OCM,” Battles said.

Carmine Fiore is on the Veteran Committee of the Cannabis Association of New York. He says broadening priority treatment from service-disabled veterans to all veterans isn’t as simple as a swipe of white-out.

“It’s a legislative thing, it’s not something we could argue today. Bills and amendments have to be passed and that’s an uphill battle I’m willing to fight.” Flore said.

But he says change can start by giving veterans proper representation in the OCM.

“I expect the Office of Cannabis Management and I challenge them to put a veteran liason -paid- in the office to help veterans,” he said.