Sydney veterans have new medical marijuana centre
Founder says Marijuana for Trauma fills gap left by closing of Veterans Affairs office last year
Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder have a new place to turn in Cape Breton.
It's a centre that offers to help vets get access to medical marijuana.
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Marijuana for Trauma — Veterans Helping Veterans — has opened in the former Victoria Order of Nurses building on King's Road in Sydney.
Founder Fabian Henry is from New Waterford but now lives in Fredericton.
He is a former military combat engineer who has suffered for years from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"After three years, I tried cannabis for the first time in my life and I got relief," said Henry. "That was five years ago and I've only been on one medication for five years now."
'They're not dope addicts'
A doctor will make regular visits to the centre to write prescriptions.
The centre will help veterans with paperwork and offer tips on getting and using medical marijuana.
Veteran Robbie McPhee of New Waterford says the centre is long overdue. He says he suffers from chronic pain and PTSD, and uses cannabis to cope.
But he says not everyone accepts the use of medical marijuana.
"I've waited 18 years for help and this here is a godsend," said McPhee.
Several Royal Canadian Legion members toured the centre on its first day of operation, but declined to comment.
But one outspoken veteran, Ron Clarke, gives the centre his stamp of approval.
He's too old to use marijuana himself, he said, but has seen it work for others.
"Let me say that I know of six people who have been helped by medical marijuana," said Clarke. "They're not dope addicts, they're using the medication as the way it was meant to be."
Centre planned for Halifax
The centre will also help veterans with other government paperwork, and offer peer support services.
Clarke says veterans need a place where they feel comfortable after the Veterans Affairs Canada office in Sydney closed in 2014.
There are other Marijuana for Trauma centres in St. John's, N.L., Fredericton, N.B. and Markham, Ont.
Henry said a similar centre is planned for Halifax later this year.
He said the centres are run largely on donations and staffed mainly by volunteers.
He also said some of the services are billable to Veterans Affairs Canada.