Veterans David Bass and Ian Benouis speak about their PTSD experiences at WomenGrow event November 5, 2015.
David Bass: 0.00 – 14:00
Ian Benouis: 14:00-32:10
Questions: 31:10-40:25, Ian and David
Question: Can you speak a little bit about the Texas Norml and the veterans program that you run?
David Bass: Yes. I became the director of Veterans Outreach, and my first … This is like, if I was a religious person I would believe that God put his hand on this. My very first Texas Norml meeting, I walked into the Flamingo Cantina, that we meet the first Wednesday of every month, and I was standing at the Texas Norml table talking to a lady named Cheyanne Weldon and as I was talking to her this guy came in the door with a dog, a support dog, and he was wearing a Vietnam veterans hat.
He came up and he started telling Cheyanne that he had tested positive for cannabis at the VA hospital and they had cut off all his medications and demanded that he enroll himself in the drug abuse program and go through this whole program so that he could stop using cannabis so that they could give him back the narcotics that he was hooked on previously.
This is the vicious cycle that we are caught in. If we cannot talk for cannabis then they cut off all the medications, make us go through the drug program so that they can give us back the medications, and that’s not a good answer. Hearing this guy talk to Shyanne I was like, “Holy crap, I didn’t even know this was going on in Texas,” because I was a retired officer and I had Tricare and so at a certain point I had stopped going to the VA and I had a private doctor, but that’s a luxury I can afford because of Tricare. This guy didn’t have that luxury, so the VA is literally all he has.
Cheyanne told him, “We are working on that. That’s exactly what we are trying to do, bring medical marijuana to Texas,” but there was nothing she could do for him personally. That’s when I knew what I needed to do, which is get involved in this movement and bring medical marijuana to Texas. That’s what I do.
Question: How many veterans do you have lobbying?
David: During the 2013 legislative session was the first time I was involved in Jax and others trained me and I really enjoyed it, it was very empowering. I asked Jax and the others, I said, “So, who’s the other veterans,” and they said, “Oh, Cliff Duval. He was the other veteran. During the 2013 Texas legislative session it was me and Cliff Duval, a Vietnam veteran.
Then we got organized, we started reaching out to veterans, we started programs. This time, during the 2015 legislative session, we had approximately 50 to 100 veterans involved in the session, going out and actively lobbying, attending your lobby days, writing letters, meeting with legislators. Currently I would say we have around two to 300 veterans actively involved in the movement in Texas.
On Veterans Day we are going to march in the Austin’s Veterans Day parade for the very first time. We are going to carry our NORML banners and our Veterans banners and we are going to be announced from the review stand as we march by that we are veterans working for medical marijuana in Texas and then we are going to participate in the memorial ceremony on the south steps of the Capitol. Then we are going to go down to the Vietnam Veteran’s monument and have a press conference to announce Operation Trapped.
Our goal is to collect 1000 pill bottles from 1000 veterans in Texas and each veteran will put inside the pill bottle the name of the veteran, the dates of service, the branch of service, the combat operations if that’s applicable, and disabilities; service connected disabilities. Then we are going to put a toy soldier inside each bottle and …
Question: Do we have any women toy soliders?
David: I don’t know. I am going to buy them from Amazon. Then we are going to display these bottles at the capital during the 2017 session to convince our legislators that veterans in Texas need medical cannabis right now.
Question: Thank you David. Any questions for David?
Quesiton: I just lost my dad, September 23rd, and he was a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD. Could I put his service information in a bottle?
David: Yes, that would be fantastic. Thank you. We had our first … I met Ian at our first Texas Norml Veteran’s conference, which was, was it 2014? It seems eons ago, but …
Question: It was early …
David: That’s where I met Ian, and we didn’t know who would show up, and so we did a roll call at the beginning war by war to see who was there, because we had a full house. We had it over at the library down town, and all these veterans showed up. The room was literally full, so we did a roll call. We started at Afghanistan, Iraq, Panama; where Ian served, Grenada, desert storm, Vietnam, and when we got to Korea three veterans stood up; Korean veterans.
We have veterans in Texas using cannabis going all the way back to the Korean War without a doubt, because we’ve met them, we know who they are. This is a big deal in Texas. There’s about 200 of us in the movement but I guarantee you there are thousands of veterans in Texas using cannabis.
Question: We are going to have … Tell them about the meeting in Houston on the 14th.
David: Do you know who Doctor Sue Sisley is? She will be speaking at our Houston Norml veterans conference, not this Saturday but a week from Saturday …
Question: It’s the 14th.
David: … the 14th. We are very proud to have Sue Sisley there, and I will be serving on the veteran’s panel. This will be third veterans conference that we’ve had. We had a second one in Killeen, and Doctor Shaw spoke, and it was standing room only in our room over at the conference center. A whole lot of veterans from the Fort Hood area showed up whom we had never met, and we got fantastic media coverage; very positive media coverage. Then we will have a fourth veterans conference next October sponsored by us just before the legislative session. We are going to continue these veterans conferences all over Texas, and the fact that Sue Sisley is coming is a big deal for us.
Question: Will she be speaking about the veterans at MD Anderson and the cancer research? I think she’s running that program.
David: Yes. She’s already been approved. She will be talking about her plans for the study and exactly how she’s going to do it. We are all very interested in that.
David: Veterans are very affected because when we go speak to our legislators it totally destroys the stereotype of the hippie stoner, that is you can’t look at a veteran who served in Vietnam or Korea or Iraq and say, “This is just some worthless stoner that I don’t even need to talk to.” No; you’ve got to talk to this guy or this lady because they are veterans.
Question: Thank you, David. Next we have Mr. Ian Benouis. Is that how you say your name?
Ian: Yeah, it’s okay. It’s terrible right? Can everyone hear me okay? I can stand.
Ian: I’d prefer to sit down, if people don’t mind. How is this, can everyone hear me okay? Awesome. What I thought I’d do is just tell my story a little bit, how I got here, and then open up for questions. I also want to say, and you also set up that excellent PTSD event for veterans in Killeen and that brought out …
David: We had at least 100, standing room only. There was a lot of people there.
Ian: I would say my recent journey just really started at that first veterans conference, but I will come back and tie that in. I grew up in Hawaii then went to West Point where I was a Blackhawk helicopter pilot in the army out at Fort Ord, which is now at Cal State Monterey. Pretty soon after I was there we deployed down to Panama in anticipation of just cause. We were rotating down there for two years before. I had PTSD really not from the, not the war anyway, more from sexual trauma, childhood trauma, car accidents, all sorts of stuff.
The thing in the military was, it’s dangerous just flying those things but you don’t think how dangerous things are in the military when you are doing them because you wouldn’t be able to do your job. Its only when you get out and then you actually have to deal with all the trauma of having just been in the military, period, because you couldn’t really process it while you were doing it.
I was down there, rotating down there, I come back; our unit had the highest resignation rate for commissioned officers in the entire Army because of our deployments. I was down there for just cause, which is really just a field trip compared to Iraq or Afghanistan and desert storm the first time. I got out of the military and decided to move to Texas because opening up a map, I grew up in Hawaii, I said, “The coasts are nice but they are kind of expensive, too cold,” Texas used to be its own republic, growing part of the country.
I came here, and my first wife left me, I’d had a bunch of stuff happen to me and I was like, “Okay, I almost drowned in California,” my house was robbed and then burnt down by actually a veteran who thought he was helping me, he had mental health issues; he got treated for his mental health a day before he was supposed to show up in court, he killed himself.
Basically, God had my attention and for me that was the beginning of my spiritual journey. I’ve been healing myself with sacred plants and spiritual practice for 20 years and really got connected … I’ve been working to legalize these plants for over 20 years. I’ve been supporting that for 20 years …
Ian: Multi-Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies which wants to see plants, these sacred plants, turned into medicines that are available for people. I wrote an editorial but there’s … I couldn’t be a lot to be done in public around this stuff and just really continuing to educate myself and believe in this and help myself and help anyone else that I could.
This re-entry to me … Really, I’ve got four kids, the oldest is 18, the youngest is 14, and they’ve been really my medicine for the past 18 years; that’s a healing with them. Really what’s helped me in the past couple of years … I grew up in Hawaii where cannabis is totally part of the culture, three years behind Obama, and it wasn’t a problem. There’s no drug trade because it’s all home grown. It was decriminalized, it was part of the culture and it was no big deal, so like other people I used it, and I was second in my class and gotten into West Point, so there was no problem there, but I also didn’t have a problem with it and didn’t disrespect it and it was part of the culture.
About five years ago, I really could say five years ago I probably became a medical cannabis patient for myself, because I had these sacred plants that I’ve used to deal with some traumas and I got that enough in a good place so I could function, but about five years ago I just started yoga and I had this plantar fasciitis, if anyone has ever gotten that, it’s horrible, right? You don’t wish it on your enemies, I am like, “I’ve got to get rid of this and never get again.”
I go into doing yoga but I got this and then I was like … The cannabis I was just getting once a week, Friday night, chill out, relax, meditate, whatever, and have fun, but that was enough for me in my healing and I was like now I’ve started to use it for my plantar fasciitis. I’ve been an attorney, I’ve been in the tech world, a lot of startups, and I was like, “Wow, this kind of really helps with anxiety and panic attacks and depression and all the other things core to the human experience,” and so I was like, “Wow, this is really good medicine,” and I always knew that and I always believed that, but for me that was like a personal revelation so I’ve kept at it and came out publically through all this process.
At that veterans conference meeting, that was the first time really … I knew that veterans were coming back from war with problems, because that’s always happened and I knew veterans were using these plants because that’s always happened because they get the plants actually when they go to war, just like they do in Afghanistan or they do in Iraq or they did in Vietnam. They would actually go to those places and bring those plants back with them to heal them.
That was a real source of healing for me in the beginning, to my personal healing for my next phase and then with veterans, because veterans getting together or anyone getting together who is in need of healing and sharing with other people who are in need of healing, that’s medicine. The medicine isn’t just the cannabis, the medicine is all of us here being in this room together sharing our love for this because of what it can do for people. That’s medicine as well.
For me then, since then it’s been an awesome ride and I’ve been advocating nationally for this. I got to go up to DC with a bunch of vets in April as part of the Americans for Safe Access conference and we really formed the Texas veteran’s movement on your own and then we got those people together. This was the first time people who were all working and supporting Sue Sisley in this movement got together in DC.
At least for me, I am like I am just wise enough to see that; it was actually happening, it was amazing. I am like, “This is really, this a civil rights movement, this is a justice movement really happening.” I’ve connected and stayed in that and I am part of an organization called Veterans for Entheogenic Therapy started by someone who has become a really good friend of mine, you meet someone and someone who is more than 20 years younger than you and you are like, “You are the guy that I wanted to be when I started out doing all this stuff but now we live in a world, like we all do with cannabis, that we can actually really start to come out and do something in a real way.”
He started taking veterans down to Peru to give them Ayahuasca, and if you want you can go see it on Netflix, my life with Lisa Ling CNN documentary, jungle medicine, about him taking down there. That was healing for me. Before I met him I watched that video, because you can watch it even on CNN, and there were veterans there. One of them, she’d … I am like, “Okay, these are going to be war veterans,” and I get that, right. I am like, “No, that’s a misconception of sexual trauma.” This is a big thing.
This one woman she had been raped while she was in Marine basic training by people on the base, Marines on the base. I was just like, “What,” and this is the person who is going to go to Peru to take Ayahuasca, which I had taken before, but she’s never taken it and she’s going to go and do this and I am like, “This is inspiring to me.” Another guy there, he was raped by his fellow soldiers while on active duty in Afghanistan.
While you are at war the only reason you are fighting is to protect the person next to you, and that’s the only reason they are fighting. Talk about an ultimate violation and betrayal of trust. I saw those people and I said, “Wow, you know,” I’ve got this sexual trauma that I had not resolved at all at that point and I am like, multiple sexual traumas, but I am like, “If these people can go do this,” that was an inspiration to me, that was medicine to me. This whole thing for me, I never knew how powerful the veteran healing part of this was going to be for me as I really got back and got on the train back to do the work that I still needed to do.
Now that organization, which is actually working also with Sue Sisley, because she’s doing three different studies; she’s doing a cannabis study, she’s doing an MDMA study and she’s doing an Ayahuasca study, our organization is basically doing the drug protocol part of that and then we are going to recruit all the vets for that. All the vets, to make this thing totally easy, we are not going to ask you to deal with the Federal government at all; it’s all going to be done under the Oklevueha Native American church. We just did a whole end run around their whole process for the medicine itself, which otherwise DMT is a schedule one drug. These are the …
Ian: If you’d ask me six or eight or however many months ago when I met Ryan, within the last year, that I could see a future where veterans could go and basically get treatment for these things as legal church members I would say, “That’s just un … It’s just incomprehensible,” but it’s totally true and its totally manifested. I just really want to share with everybody, you can look at all the polls and all the numbers and everything, but things are changing and shifting in an exponential way. The more people they get involved in that is cumulative and its additive and its growing, so this is really big.
From the veterans with PTSD, here’s the … You gave a classic story there, and I think the amazing thing that happens is this key, is veterans come back and they got blow up so they’ve got pain, whether they have other limbs or not there’s physical pain. There’s PTSD, so that means psych meds, there’s potentially TBI, so they’ve got traumatic brain injury.
I was just talking, driving over here, a friend of mine in Colorado; 100% PTSD permanent, he’s got like the tin man syndrome because he’s had TBI that his brain is messed up and he’s not making the thyroid that his body needs, he’s not making his hormones. He has to basically take everything, but cannabis is saving his life. Sorry, I don’t know where I was going with that.
TBI, and they come back and they take these meds, the side effects of the meds are suicide and suicidal thoughts and they try to kill themselves. Then, thank God they don’t, they survive and then they find, almost always first, cannabis. They find cannabis, and whether they are naïve to it, whether they smoked it back in high school or college or whatever, they find it and its usually a friend or a family member of another veteran, and that can be both as well at the same time, that says, “Hey, there’s something here for you,” and they immediately consume that and they feel relief.
They feel like the anxiety just melts away. Then from there, usually, the people that I am working with that especially work in these other plants as well, then they say, “Okay, great,” because cannabis has potential to treat the underlying trauma, but more the nice thing veterans are using it today just to treat the condition, so the condition still exists.
If you are really going to solve for this entirely, veteran or not, you’ve got to go and do the work on the underlying trauma, and that’s the other kinds of plants that I am working on and working with trying to get them brought on the mainstream as well. The good news is cannabis is helping facilitate that, and although [inaudible 00:26:48] all these other things, but cannabis coming across it’s like a whole natural green revolution thing that’s going on at the same time. Those plants are coming along with it.
I’ve seen the healing firsthand. I’ve seen the relief that vets get, and it just both breaks your heart in how good it is and then breaks your heart when you realize how many other people with trauma are in need of that, and especially the other vets. I will just share this as something personal, and some people here will be connected with this.
I am in a church that uses these different plants as their sacraments, and Ayahuasca is one of them. When I went and did it back here in May, Mother’s Day, I went and I addressed that sexual trauma. I was able in that state to relate to that person and said it for the first time ever, go back there and not focus on … It was happening; I went back in time and suddenly it was happening and I could go there and see instead of feeling sorry for the young me who was in first or second grade and it was in my own house and it was an older boy in the neighborhood, who lived in my neighborhood, so like a violation on lots of different levels, but I went back and I am like, “What happened to you? Why …” not in any negative way, but compassion and empathy for that person. When I did that, the whole thing evaporated. It all went away.
That’s how I personally resolved, and cannabis can have that power as well. I will share with you another story, and I’ve written all this up and I am happy to share with everybody; I’ve written it up, so it’s on the web. I went to Colorado to hang out with vets for basically a week and a half and then also do some business stuff for the current company that I am with, and I worked with this healer.
He’s a transpersonal counselor, and he did a guided meditation with cannabis for me because he wanted to test the hypothesis that you could use cannabis for trauma, and I am like, “Yeah dude, I am all in.” I am an experienced meditator, did yoga, got a spiritual practice, I know these plants. Yeah, cannabis is totally amazing. I have had fun on cannabis and I can do also deeper things with cannabis as well; it has lots of different capabilities.”
He took me on a guided meditation in his house, in his front room with a little altar and music that he had all lined up to be playing and talked me through. It was guided. He did a little bit of body work on me, but guided in that he was asking the questions; he was telling me what to do at a high level where to go but not trying to get into my head and what’s going on to allow me to naturally sort it out on my own.
He did all the body work and cleaned me. I went through my first trauma, which was my sister dying in a car accident with my parents in a foreign country when I was nine months old and my sister wasn’t even two, and my parents had never solved for it, so they haven’t addressed it, but I got totally okay with it using cannabis, using seven pots of their blend that they put together, seven inhalations on a pipe like surely many of us do on a Friday night or something in that state, in that environment, everything with my being a student and him being a good teacher we went and I had complete release of that trauma for myself.
We proved that model, because not all vets are ready to do these other things, its legal in certain States, its medical in other States. I guess I am here to share to the power of these healing plants if done in the right ways with the right people can achieve amazing results. I am just now continuing to be personally committed to making this stuff happen. I will talk a little bit about my business stuff and then I open for questions.
I made that decision … This is all going on at the same time; I’ve come out publically in the medical hearing, I came out on TV. I’ve got to decide; I had to go ask my family, I am like, “Hey, are you guys comfortable me saying this stuff about me, coming out and letting everybody know that your dad consumes cannabis?” and they were totally behind me. It was one of the most beautiful things to give my family that chance to say, “No, just do it, we are totally behind you.”
I made the decision too to move into this industry. I’ve got a friend with a Texas based company; he’s been making extractors, these butane extractors, for over 10 years. He started off sacred plants as his initial motivation to even do this. I was providing him sacred plants for the past 10 years for him to sell online, and I decided to join his company. It’s been the most awesome great decision I’ve ever made.
I will just tell everyone who is looking at this, you do have to figure out how you do this. You can’t want for the laws to show up and then, “Hey, I’m totally white market.” You have to figure this out while you are in the greater market and there’s a lot of question marks. I am even happy to talk to you about some of the ones that are on CBD because there’s a lot of people who think a lot differently on the legality of it than I do and others do. I think that’s all I’ve got to say. Please, any questions?
Question: I have a question
Question: Can you talk louder for the audience?
Question: I will gladly talk louder.
Question There you go.
Question: First of all I wanted to thank you for being so vocal. As an activist myself, I know I have an arrest plan, and that’s something that we have to function with in this State and that most patients have to function with in this State. Thank you for coming out at the hearing, thank you Dave for all the work that you do. You told a story, an anecdotal story about a veteran that you know that had tin man syndrome …
Ian: Yeah, tin man. It’s a really bad TBI.
Question: My question to you is, you said that it directly affected, was it his thyroid gland?
Ian: Yes, exactly. He has to take testosterone, thyroid and other hormones that either the brain, the gland isn’t producing or the part of the brain … The gland that controls the other gland that the endocrine system isn’t producing.
Question: My question is, I am not sure if you are familiar with a patient in Denver. She had a non-functioning thyroid gland. When she moved to Colorado she was able to access medical cannabis and now she no longer has to take her thyroid medicine because those organs are now functioning again. You had spoken in the past knowingly about the endocannabinoid system. Can you tell me does that relate or do you have any knowledge of how that affects those glands?
Ian: You are saying how TBI and the endocannabinoid system …?
Question: In this specifics it’s the thyroid gland, how it helps with that.
Ian: How his use of that helped him? He’s on it right … He’s one of those people, he’s still on some of the old meds; he is not bad of a shape, he has no other choice. The more cannabis he takes and the better cannabis he’s able to figure out which different strains and stuff work to treat his condition, he is able to reduce his meds but he’s still not off any of those kind of hormonal replacements.
To be totally honest, it’s really … Can everyone still hear me? I put the mic down. Sorry, my apologies. I just don’t know how that’s … I don’t know; I am not an expert in that. He’s making progress but it’s really kind of early days. The truth is the time we’ve spent together with him as veterans and that kind of love and medicine has actually improved his condition, with the other things more than anything else. We all know that even as he got challenges with health, when you get the support of your loving family that’s just completely additive to the medicine as well. You said something about arrest plan, is it something …?
Question: I was just saying in Texas, as a patient, a lot of patients have been arrested and as advocate that is my job; I have an arrest plan.
Ian: I want to give people some really good advice around …
Question: What’s an arrest plan?
Question: who gets called? I’ve got a baby.
David: The most recent veteran I met and I rode motorcycles with him this weekend and his name is Keith, he lives near here; he just started using cannabis and he has a 14-year-old daughter, and so the CPS comes and takes the children away in Texas for using cannabis. You are arrested plan is, “All right, I am in jail. Now, who is going to pick up my child from school, how am I going to notify my wife, who is going to come bail me out,” that’s the arrest plan that you have to make especially when you have children. That’s what I talked to Keith about this weekend because he hadn’t really thought that through. What happened with Keith is he suffered serious PTSD and he’s just started using cannabis, and he’s driving all the way to Colorado every two months and then smuggling his cannabis back.
Question: Tell him to stop that.
David: Yes. We are going to take care of Keith. He’d driving all the way to Colorado and then bringing it back. He had no idea how to use it, he had to look on YouTube to figure out how to use it and then go buy a pipe. His daughter doesn’t know that he uses it, so he’s got this situation. He is using cannabis, his 14 year old daughter doesn’t know he’s using it, and he’s driving to Colorado. It’s horrible, it’s a horrible situation to be in.
What he told me is he said, “Since I got back from Afghanistan I have not slept eight hours straight in four years,” and he told me, “As soon as I got back from Colorado,” he actually used it in Colorado, he said, “When I used it in Colorado I was in a hotel I didn’t sleep good, but as soon as I got home and used cannabis for the first time in four years I slept eight hours straight.”
Ian: I want to add one last thing about PTSD that I learned recently. It was a panel, Ryan LeCompte my friend from Veterans for Entheogenic Therapy was on it, Sue Sisley, Saj Ravzi from Trauma Dynamics. The highest, and the question came up in the discussion; it was done live in what’s the single biggest correlating factor for the development of PTSD? In other words, through war, thinking about it this way, and thinking about it almost biologically, like when you are going to go to war and a lot of people are going to catch PTSD because it’s that environment that’s conducive for that.
The highest correlating factor is childhood trauma. It’s not even more that we have, yes we have a war machine problem and a going to war problem, but the reason that the people get the PTSD to begin with, which is the natural reaction to war, the people that are most likely to develop that are the people that have childhood trauma.
Go out and look up the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, the Adverse Childhood Experiences report, and take that for yourself and see what your number is. A third of all people in this country have numbers that are zero. My whole family did it the other day, they are like, my wife and kids ones and zeroes, I am like, “Great, we broke it.” Me, I had a seven. When you look at those numbers, it tells you.
We don’t have a gun problem, we have a mental health problem expressing itself through guns. You’ve got to look deeper. It says we have a childhood trauma problem that exists in our entire society that we haven’t solved for, and then we are going to sending these people and making it worse. They are just showing it exists. Thanks.