HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii group is trying to help veterans struggling with mental health issues — by helping them learn how to use medical cannabis.
Complimentary and Alternative Medicine on Oahu, or CAMO, is teaching vets how medical cannabis can help them with PTSD-induced pain and anxiety.
The push comes as Hawaii is ramping up its medical marijuana dispensary program.
Program participants say they stumbled across the group after other options didn't work.
"While I was in the military, I realized I had PTSD while in my first year," said U.S. Coast Guard veteran Daniel Sauls, who has been deployed four times.
James Trice was stationed at Schofield Barracks when he was deployed to Iraq as a combat medic.
"A lot of our battle buddies passed away because of ... roadside bombs. So when you get back and you are driving along the H-1 and H-3, you see a piece of debris, you are immediately geared to see it's not an explosive device," Trice said.
The vets say a year and a half ago, a Vietnam veteran named John committed suicide in their Chinatown building.
The incident was a huge loss, but also motivated them to help even more.
"For us it was a catalyst to start this organization that would promote the effectiveness of veterans helping veterans," said Theo Alexander, who served in the Navy during the first Gulf War and is program coordinator for CAMO.
The program advocates using legal oils from industrial hemp to help relieve a variety of symptoms. The real help, they say, is when the dispensaries are allowed to open.
"There's a lot of patients that have been in need for a long time. Any step forward is better than standing around and doing nothing," Trice said.
For more information on CAMO, call 538-3338.