Jason Ambrosino spent a decade serving in the U.S. Army, including overseas in Iraq between 2005-06. By the time Ambrosino retired in 2014, he was 100% service disabled and given seven different prescriptions from Veterans Affairs hospital doctors.
“It was too many. It was really, kind of wrecking my life. Was the pain level less or the issues that I had, were they not bothering me so much? Yeah, of course, but the issue was the combination of those medications was turning me into an unproductive zombie,” says Ambrosino.
Tired of being tired, he looked for a different solution. He and several of his military friends began trying CBD products. He says that, paired with medical marijuana, was a life changer and allowed him to get off his prescriptions.
But despite being legal in New York, VA hospitals do not prescribe or encourage the use of marijuana products. The hospital system operates on the federal level, where marijuana is still a schedule 1 controlled substance.
Instead, the hospital’s doctors say they prescribe other medications, like Ambrosino was first given, and offer things like physical therapy and exercise.
“What’s important to note is that our goal is to provide the most effective treatment method that best meets the needs of the veteran, with the veteran being an integral part of choosing the treatment that best meets his or her goal,” said Peter Potter, the public affairs director at Stratton VA Medical Center, in a statement.
After the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, Ambrosino began Veterans Hemp Market. The business offers several CBD-based products, aimed at sharing what has worked for Ambrosino.
“We’ve gotten rave reviews on this. Folks who are existing cancer patients right now and this is the only relief that they’ve been able to get them,” says Ambrosino.
Ambrosino says the company’s sales were somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 in its first year. That increased to about $250,000 last year. Many of his clients are fellow veterans.
He hopes the future will include more education and options for struggling veterans, something he knows won’t be possible until marijuana is decriminalized on the federal level.
“We have to get it descheduled at a federal level. Nothing is going to happen at the federal level until that descheduling happens,” says Ambrosino.