Like many medicinal cannabis users Bryan Ortega of Colorado was once from another state – Texas. The plight to gain access has led many families to flee from their home state or country seeking plant medicine that has the world afire with discussions of how health issues can be battled – and won with it. Many are turning to cannabinoid medicine as education regarding the efficacy of the alternative healthcare treatment spreads – as well as the mounting evidence piles up in regards to the dangers of pharmaceuticals. “I tried cannabis in my youth. I always knew from a young age that it helped me relax and focus. I feel like I was able to function better in social settings like making and keeping friends or attending school” Bryan shared with me. When it comes to medical cannabis patients it seems the vast majority had an encounter with the plant in their youth as a recreational drug – and many realized later in life how medicinal that event actually was. It wouldn’t be until years, even decades later, that Ortega would realize that he too gained a natural and holistic healing from the use when he was young and it was beyond evident that injuries sustained in service to our country and more would require cannabis as a staple for medicinal use. A once extremely physically active individual, like many others, found himself in the grips of pharmaceuticals that simply weren’t helping his many issues. That’s when Ortega made the decision to uproot his family and move into a state that allowed the growth and use of cannabis and it’s extracts – Colorado.
Ortega didn’t waste time – he got an RV, packed the families belongings, and they quickly said their goodbye’s as they headed towards a new life that would offer him a break from the non stop pharmaceuticals that were making his life beyond unmanageable. Veterans have fought to be able to use the plant without harassment from our nations leaders – and without the continued threat of losing benefits or healthcare coverage. It’s warriors like him that fought for our country and then had to come back home to fight for their own right to medicate the way they choose fit. His battle to get away from the ongoing nightmare of pill after pill was ongoing – but he couldn’t put his family nor himself though that forever so he made the ultimate choice that nobody should have to. Due to his zip code alone, and nothing else, he was unable to access the same type of cannabis others can in states that have fully legalized. His home state that he loved so dearly had quickly became an enemy to his survival by not allowing him to use what he needed, he had to go. This led to much more than just becoming a medicinal cannabis patient, Ortega is the Chief Operating Officer for Veterans For Natural Rights, an entity that advocates for the use of MAPS approved drugs for PTSD, Truama, and more that’s making strides in the push for legalization of natural substances. Bryan decided he wanted to tell his own story – which is so awesome as that’s how patients and those that are considering medicinal cannabis can truly learn.
“I am 100% medically retired from the military. I have a number of physical conditions that prevented me from being as active as I once was prior to my military service and during. I suffer from severe PTSD just like millions of other service members and was diagnosed with a multiple TBI (traumatic brain injury) during my medical board process. When I was medically discharged in 2009 after a year assigned to the wounded warrior battalion at Brooke Army Medical Center in my Home Town of San Antonio Texas, I had to use a walker to get around for a few months. I was in such agony from the constant throbbing pain and the side effects of all the pharmaceuticals that I continued to rely on a cane for the remaining years until I moved to Colorado. I have slipped and degenerated discs in my upper and lower spine, bad knees, ankles and feet. I was taking a number of psychotropic and pain medications for the chronic pain I now found myself in continually unless I have cannabis and extracts. It was a pretty grim existence for me at that time as I was in bad shape. It was only the Cannabis plant that allowed me to take my life back as it helps me to relax and experience something of a “fear extinction” in a sense. In my opinion things like PTSD and trauma are stored in the somatic nervous system. All the parts of the Brain and body that go into the fight or flight response system get throw off wack with PTSD – or thrown into a state of hyper vigilance. Cannabis suppresses those broken signals for me and allows me to relax. Dis-habituation is a word I am hearing the more I research how entheogenic medicines help with PTSD. I have to medicate constantly to maintain a stability or homeostasis but the side effects are much more minimal and manageable than pharmaceuticals. The best part is that there is no associated risk of suicide linked to marijuana use – it’s a sacred medicine just like DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and Psilocybin.”
“I use cannabis extract or concentrates mostly with a little flower here and there. I am a fan of heavy Indica and Kush strains. I like to add a little Durban Poison strain for the THCv anti-anxiety properties. I also use cannabis edibles, RSO or FECO THC oil – but I don’t use very often other than for sleep because that type of oil works so amazing for that. I dose cannabis and extracts by how I feel and as needed instead of on a schedule.”
“When I told my family I was picking up and moving to Colorado for cannabis and my health they were very uneasy about the idea. It seemed like complete nonsense and they thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life. No one in my family uses cannabis. They live in an area that is very strict about the law and drugs. As far as they knew it was a bad drug. In my reality or from my perspective I was in the fight of my life. I was in bad shape after 10 years of western pharmaceutical solutions I had to make drastic changes. I did not have or maintain many social relationships while I lived in Texas from 2009 to 2017. Both pain and PTSD made it almost impossible. I did not have many friends at the time but I kept in contact with the ones that knew my status and were very supportive. Since medicating I have become more outspoken through activism and I have exponentially more friends now and beautiful relationships with all of them.”
“I was taking a very high dose of prescription pain medication 4 times a day and it was slowly killing me. Cannabis has allowed me to deal with PTSD and pain in a way that makes me capable – I can get out and exercise and be more active and that’s allowed me to literally take my life back. With the help of the cannabis plant I was able to get off of prescription pain drugs in Dec. of 2017. As the story goes, In Jan of 2017 I sold everything I owned, bought a 33 foot RV and a truck to pull it. I then headed west to Colorado with prayers of saving my own life. We found an RV park near Manitoba Springs, the Garden of the Gods RV park. I went to the VA right away in Colorado Springs and they could not see me till June – and it was January. I started seeing civilian doctors that were not as prejudice towards Cannabis and so my journey of healing began. 6 months after we made our home in Colorado, my wife at the time got a Job at a Hospital in Denver and I got accepted into an Engineering Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder so moved north to Westminster. During this time my ex-wife in Texas, the mother of my then 8-year-old son who stayed with her when we moved, filed a restraining order to not allow my son to visit me anymore in Colorado because I openly admitted to using Cannabis. I was a medical card holder and was not ashamed that Cannabis saved my life and made me a better, more functional human being. Unfortunately, South Texas courts are not friendly towards Cannabis and after a 2 year battle the order was granted, denying me my right to take possession of my child during my allotted parenting time and take him to the State of Colorado. This was my birth into Activism. I found Matt Kahl and started working with Veterans for Natural rights.”
“If I could give the world advice on how to use cannabis as medicine I’d tell people to do their research. Google is actually a great start – after all searching on the internet is how medical researchers gain information to spread. Make sure to ask all the questions that come into your mind – don’t be shy. Make sure you know how the plants medicine will affect you physically and mentally before using any large doses, start out small. Make sure you know the interactions between cannabis, especially if you use CBD, and current prescriptions you may be taking. Learn all you can about dosages but remember that everyone responds differently. Be honest with yourself about where you are at mentally and with your trauma. Think about what intent you have for using the medicine and what you hope to gain from it, and then enjoy the experience in a good setting.”
“My life is completely different in a sense that I am the person I feel I want to be. Before my liberation from the prescriptions I was a slave to those pills, wasn’t eating good, was gaining weight, rarely left a dark room and I was angry all the time because of my situation and fate. I am not even a shadow of that person anymore thanks to the plant. I still suffer from chronic pain, PTSD, and a few other things but I don’t feel like death is a better alternative anymore. Cannabis helps me not to be so stressed out and helps to ease the pain my body is constantly in. Cannabis was not and is not a magic cure but it is a powerful tool in the tool box of healing and self-care. Cannabis is an ancient and sacred herb and it is our natural right to consume the plant. I believe that it is even a right bestowed upon us by the Creator according to Christianity. Refer to Genesis 1-29. The myth that the cannabis plant, in accordance to schedule one status, not having therapeutic or medicinal properties needs to be broken – it’s untrue.”
Bryan shared with me his motto, “Put a little more love in your heart”, which I found to go along with his personality so well. This military man signed up for the battle of his life when he joined up – not knowing he’d have an even bigger one when after he was injured to the point of needing to be medically discharged. His battle that turned into advocacy is a beautiful story that we see with others who have became fuel to the anti-prohibition fire, heating up the debate and the reality of the how and why the plant was ever prohibited in the first place. The negative connotation that weed is for stoners is slipping away quickly as people like Ortega step up to the plate and share their story. Without a doubt he’s and inspiration as well as walking hope for so many people that live a life like I once used to – addicted to pharmaceuticals and seeing no way out of it. Bryan is a warrior of the ultimate magnitude – but instead of fighting for his country he’s caught up in a battle against it to free a criminal that never committed any crime – the beautiful cannabis plant.
Mike Robinson, Medicinal Cannabis Patient. Founder, Global Cannabinoid Research Center. But, most of all, Genevieve’s Daddy