An average of 20 veterans in the United States commit suicide every day, according to a U.S. Veteran’s Association report in 2016. Iraq War veteran and Arcata resident Art Gutierrez, 31, had met three friends while in service who would eventually become part of this troubling statistic. He came close to being part of it as well after falling into a pattern of depression and painkiller addiction after his service ended in 2010.
Gutierrez said what prevented him from taking his life was rediscovering the camaraderie with his brothers and sisters in arms through cannabis as part of the Weed for Warriors Project.
“I chose not to use pharmaceuticals,” Gutierrez said. “There was a relief that came from cannabis, a spiritual relief that happened over time. The spiritual relief and all that happened as my body and my mind started to clear up. I, as a person, became happier and became passionate about life again.”
Gutierrez was introduced to the Weed for Warriors Project in San Jose, and after moving to Humboldt County last year, he decided to create his own local chapter in March 2016 which now has more than 55 veterans on its roster.
A year later, Vietnam War and Iraq War veterans to U.S. Coast Guard veterans like Jean Marvel say the organization has helped them to overcome struggles of self-doubt, addiction and depression as they adjust to civilian life.
“We might not have been with them in the time they were in war, but we know what they’ve been through and understand there is more to what’s out there,” Marvel said. “We want to help them medicate and function on a daily basis without having to take these pharmaceuticals.”