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Transgender Vet: ‘Weed Saved my Life’

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Transgender Vet: ‘Weed Saved my Life’

Zooey Zachow was deployed into Iraq while serving in the United States Army during the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) years.

Zachow is a male-to-female transgender and battles post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After finally finding relief with medical cannabis, she plans on opening a cannabis farm in Goldendale, Washington. In recent years, the transgender community has emerged in the United States, front-and-center. The genderqueer community has permeated the cannabis industry as well.

PTSD more or less made life unbearable for the already-hard circumstances of Zooey Zachow. “I was pretty unemployable,” Zachow told VICE Broadly.

The United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs doesn’t recognize cannabis as a legitimate treatment for PTSD. A growing number of veterans from all walks of life have been demanding to be recognized. Cannabis, they say, is a better alternative than prescription drugs like Klonopin and Zoloft. Prescription drugs leave them feeling like “zombies” and many men and women have claimed that cannabis works better on anxiety than traditional selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s).

“[Weed] saved my life,” Zachow said. “I absolutely wouldn’t have survived the years [after the army] without cannabis.”

The DADT years didn’t affect Zachow’s actions very much. She had to come out of the closet twice — the second time, coming out as a cannabis entrepreneur. Zachow opened her first medical cannabis collective in 2011, before her transition. The very next year, Washington legalized recreational cannabis. She opened up her farm, Ritual Cannabisshortly thereafter.

“You have to kill the male [part of the plant]. It will be an important ritual when we kill the male,” Zachow says of the business name.

She calls the land where the farm is located “Ritual Ground” and plans on hosting workshops and retreats. These retreats, she hopes, will educate the dispensary’s members on the growing problems of violence, oppression and racism.

Transgender men and women, like other minority groups, have often been missing from the picture when it comes to the cannabis industry.

“There are many minorities who feel disgruntled about the shaping of the industry and would rather not support it at all,”  said Jesce Horton, a dispensary owner in Portland, Oregon who founded the Marijuana Cannabis Business Association.

People like Zachow could help change that. Buck Angel is a female-to-male trans activist.

“It’s difficult for many trans people to just walk the world,” Angel said. “Non-trans people have the privilege of not dealing with many things that trans people deal with just being trans, such as thinking that everyone knows you are transgender when maybe you just want to identify as male or female. Cannabis has helped to relax these fears and also just to give your brain some off time.”

Female-to-male trans men go through heavy testosterone therapy, resulting in bursts of anger and mood swings. Cannabis can help. PTSD has also been recognized as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in 10 states.

“We are queer folk,” Zachow’s boyfriend and business partner Michael Buchert said. “We can’t be a cannabis brand and not acknowledge that cannabis is a very political issue.”

Zachow is now on the front line for the war on cannabis. “Cannabis is a social justice issue for us,” she said.

Have you made the switch from prescription drugs to cannabis? We’d like to hear about your experience.

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