LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -Not everyone with a chronic medical condition will be able to get medical marijuana in Louisiana when it becomes available later this year.
In fact, some Louisiana veterans have moved away to gain access to cannabis. Those veterans call themselves “medical refugees.” They and others plan to bring their message to legislators on Monday in Baton Rouge.
At least nine groups are planning to go to the state capitol for what they call “422 Lobby Day.” They want medical access to cannabis, especially for veterans.
“We’re being forced into a refugee status in states where we can have access to this medicine,” Tony Landry, a Navy veteran, said.
Landry and his wife, Michelle, display the Arizona flag where they moved so he can get what he says he needs for pain.
“Being a chronic pain patient for 20 years and suffering through alcohol and opiates and whatever the VA gave me, I finally realized the only way for me to be healthy is to leave the state because of our laws in Louisiana," Landry said. “I’m a criminal here and in Arizona they welcome me as a patient. And I came back here to fight for Louisiana veterans.”
“It’s hard being away from family," Tony’s wife, Michelle said. “We miss our culture. So hard. We miss our family. But his health has to come first right now.”
Combat Veteran Zaak Thibodeaux said living in Colorado showed him cannabis provides relief for his spinal cord injury and PTSD.
“I go into a flashback and I take two puffs from a vape pen and all of a sudden I have instant relief,” Thibodeaux said.
Now that he is back here for family reasons, Thibodeaux said he does not use cannabis.
"The pharmaceuticals are killing us. They're killing us. I’m on nine different medications. It's not the medications I want to be on," he said.
“When we were in Colorado for a month, I saw all kinds of different changes in him. Good changes. He was able to live his life fully,” Marlena, Zaak’s wife, said.
Rob Anderson, of Bayou Rising, said he believes in their cause.
“Veterans are dying from PTSD,” Anderson said. “We send our veterans overseas to fight on our behalf and when they come home, we’re not fighting for them.”
Besides access to cannabis, they want to reduce the stigma. Thibodeaux asks those in the shadows to come forward.
“To the veterans that are sitting home watching this, self-medicating, unable to come forward for fear of prosecution, this is our chance to be heard," Thibodeaux said. “’422 lobby day’ is our chance to make our voices heard.”
They expect better access to reduce deaths by suicide and opioid overdose.
Those involved in 422 Lobby Day have put the a schedule on their Facebook page.