For Leo Bridgewater, a 43-year-old Iraq veteran who demonstrated for legalization during a Memorial Day "Plants Over Pills" rally in Washington, D.C., recent developments signal the beginning of a rational new era in American drug policy, particularly with its armed forces.
"I'll tell you the truth," says Bridgewater, "if they let us smoke cannabis in the Army, I would still be in today. I would estimate that 75, maybe 80 percent of the guys in uniform feel the same way. They just can't say it."
Canada began subsidizing medical marijuana for veterans in 2008. In October, it allowed active duty troops to light up under specified off-duty conditions.
Bridgewater and Belen have joined young Alexis Bortell in litigation against what they allege is the Justice Department's "unconstitutional" refusal to scratch cannabis off the Schedule 1 list, which puts it in the same category as heroin, more dangerous than cocaine. The plaintiffs also include fellow pediatric patient Jagger Cotte, 6, and former NFL player/cannabis entrepreneur Marvin Washington.