JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Veterans of Foreign Wars of Missouri has made a rare endorsement in standing up to support Amendment 2, a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The spokesman for the measure says part of the 4 percent retail tax will go to help veterans health care, being allocated by an existing state agency.
Tom Mundell, former State Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Missouri and decorated veteran, said that despite endorsements being rare, this is a cause dear to the organization’s heart.
“We have to get control over the boatload of medical issues we are having,” Mundell said, pointing to the increased and increasing veterans health issues from mental health, chronic pain, and addiction. “This is the right thing to do.”
Mundell shared that VFM members will be taking to social media, assisting with commercials and more to help get out the vote for the amendment.
Mundell was joined by three other veterans with varying, but similar backstories, including witnessing fellow veterans struggles with health, as well as their own.
Debbie Holmes, an Air Force veteran from Desert Storm, has come home to battle cervical cancer three times, had her knee replaced, and helped her son recover from critical injuries from a car accident.
“I would like people in my and my son’s situation to have better options to opiates,” Holmes said. “We owe it to our veterans.”
LTC (Ret.) Todd Scattini, 27-year Army veteran, went from West Point to European posts before retiring to Missouri, where he was stationed as a private at Fort Leonard Wood. Both Scattini and Holmes are focused on medical cannabis advocacy.
“Veterans are in the midst of a health care crisis between suicide, addiction, and overdose,” Scattini said. “This is no way to treat those who have signed on the dotted line to put their life on the line.”
Scattini hopes that the legalization of Amendment 2 will reduce the number of opioids and opioid addiction in Missouri, as it has in other states, and address PTSD.
Another veteran shared his own personal story of medical cannabis. Kyle Kisner, who served from 2004-2011 in both Iraq and Afghanistan, struggled with anxiety and addition and had attempted suicide. Kisner said he came full circle on medical marijuana, now seeing it as a real option for those who need it.
Kisner shared that states with medical marijuana see a 20 percent and growing average decrease in opioid addiction, something that has been named an epidemic in Missouri. Additionally, Kisner said Missouri is over 10 percent above the national average in veteran suicides. Those veterans who do use cannabis for medical reasons, he said, are playing a dangerous game because of the law.
“They’re out there playing a dangerous game and facing possible jail time when they’re out there making one of the best decision they can make health care wise,” Kisner said.
The group wrote that they, “believe Amendment 2 is a veteran-focused initiative, and, if it passes, Missouri’s veterans could possibly benefit from the increase in revenue to fund more veteran healthcare services through the Missouri Veterans Commission.” Under Amendment 2, revenue from the 4 percent sales tax on medical marijuana will go to the Missouri Veterans Commission.
The national VFW, in their October 2018 magazine, highlighted New Approach Missouri and Amendment 2 saying, “If approved, the legislation would make Missouri the only state to devote the proceeds from the sale of medical marijuana to assist veterans.”
Under Amendment 2, PTSD would be a qualifying condition under law, allowing state-licensed physicians to recommend it as a treatment option.
Jack Cardetti, spokesman for New Approach Missouri, said, “We know veterans have been impacted by the opioid crisis in this country and that many of them are silently suffering from diseases like TBI, PTSD, and chronic pain. Medical marijuana can be an important treatment option for veterans, which is why groups like Missouri VFW and veterans throughout the state support Amendment 2. Of the numerous endorsements, Amendment 2 has received, this one from Missouri veterans is really special.”
Listen to the full call and the veterans’ stories below.
The VFW joins many in endorsing the amendment proposal, including the Epilepsy Foundation.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.