Pubdate: Thu, 04 Aug 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Page: A3
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Hailey Salvian


STRATHROY - Ken Blanchard said he was downing 600 milligrams of 
anti-depressants a day to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 14-year Canadian military veteran said he was taking up to six 
Percocet pills, a highly addictive opiate, daily for back pain.

Now off the anti-depressants and hardly using Percocets, Blanchard 
credits medical marijuana for helping him take back his life.

The 53-year-old was among a handful of vets working Wednesday to 
ready Marijuana for Trauma's newest Canadian location, in Strathroy, 
for its official opening Thursday.

The veteran-owned and operated company helps vets dealing with 
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and pain by helping them get 
medical pot prescriptions.

The 4,000-square-foot space on Metcalfe Street is equipped with a 
therapy room, gym and kitchen. There's also a room that has the feel 
of a patriotic man cave, with soldier-themed art covering the walls 
and windows.

"It offers them a place to feel comfortable, it's a safe zone for 
veterans," said Trevor Ambroziak, a 25-year veteran and employee at the centre.

Katelyn Vey, manager of the new location, said the company expanded 
to Strathroy in response to growing demand from veterans in 
Southwestern Ontario. Previously, the closest centre was in Markham.

"We chose Strathroy because when dealing with veterans with PTSD, big 
cities can be tough. Strathroy is so close to London and accessible 
that they come to town without the burden of the big city," she said. 
With 11 other centres from B.C. to New Brunswick, Marijuana for 
Trauma provides services to more than 2,000 veterans.

Diagnosed with PTSD, Ambroziak, who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, 
said he was taking up to nine prescription medications before he was 
approved last fall for medical marijuana.

"I'm not going to tell you it's a cure, (but) it's a tool I use to 
help me cope on a daily basis," he said. "I've educated myself on 
proper use and it helps immensely. Now I give back to other veterans 
and help them with their struggles."

Town officials, including police, visited the centre, said staff, 
adding marijuana isn't kept on site.

Bruce Moncur, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, is apprehensive, 
calling medical marijuana a "double-edged sword."

Moncur said he worries pot use could be similar to alcoholism that 
plagued veterans after the First and Second World Wars.

- - With files from Free Press reporter Dale Carruthers
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