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A SOLDIER’S STORY

Major Jim McClendon didn’t have an easy return to civilian life after serving his country. The depression, anxiety, and pain made getting up every day a challenge. ...
By Gretchen Van-Monette
Photo Courtesy -Of Major Papers
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Major Jim McClendon leads the charge for change. 

Major Jim McClendon didn’t have an easy return to civilian life after serving his country. The depression, anxiety, and pain made getting up every day a challenge. 

The former Marine from Philadelphia did manage to readjust his life—confronting his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and all the trials and tribulations that came with it, including homelessness—and began in a new direction. 

He credits cannabis for his transformation and successes and promotes the plant’s benefits to all who will listen. Sadly, his story isn’t unique among returning soldiers, but it needs to be told repeatedly until fundamental changes are enacted.

 

Soldier On

With four years of proud service as a Marine, including a tour in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, McClendon came home with issues he was painfully aware of but had no idea how to deal with. 

His PTSD eventually cost him a management career, friends, and a home. His mental and physical health deteriorated. If he slept more than two hours, he considered it a good night. 

After years of self-medicating with alcohol and street weed, he went to the Veterans Administration (VA) in 2014 for an evaluation, where he was officially diagnosed with PTSD. 

He tried various ways to cope with the illness but decided the help he needed wasn’t coming from the VA. “They were just going to put me on drugs that I didn’t want to be on,” he says. “I already knew from seeing other veterans and hearing the horror stories of the VA that I didn’t want to go the pharmaceutical route.

“I needed a deeper understanding of what I was going through so I could actually figure out how to live with it,”

McClendon adds. “PTSD is something you have forever. I was trying to save my life at the end of the day.” 

A chance encounter with a friend and former soldier led to a life-saving lightbulb moment when he rediscovered marijuana, and his life took a decided upturn. 

“When I started researching marijuana, the facts were right there,” says McClendon. “No one has ever died of a marijuana overdose, ever.” From his personal experience, he knew that statistic didn’t apply to alcohol or pharmaceuticals.

Once McClendon understood the mental health benefits of cannabis, he began smoking weed; eventually, he even tried psychedelic therapy. Acid wasn’t his “twist,” but mushrooms gave him some reprieve. Yet it has been marijuana that consistently provides daily relief from physical pain and mental stresses.

“I usually smoke blunts, but since getting older, I’ve been resorting more to concentrates and joints,” he says. McClendon uses different strains for multiple problems, but indica is a favorite because it relaxes him. “I’m not tense or afraid of someone kicking down the door. Without marijuana, I wouldn’t be here,” he says. 

Photo Courtesy -Of Major Papers

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

McClendon literally puts his money where his mouth is. After his reincarnation, McClendon decided to get into the cannabis coalition and launched a line of hemp-rolling papers called Major Papers (www.instagram.com/majorspapers). The papers are sold at some shops across the Philadelphia area. 

“Rolling papers were a market I knew didn’t have much liability, and it was easier to get into,” he says. “Also, I won’t invest in something unless I personally would use it. These extremely durable and long-lasting rolling papers provide one of the smoothest smokes you’ll experience with rolling papers.” 

McClendon says he donates a portion of the rolling paper proceeds to veterans in need and organizes drives to collect donated goods. 

Since he was once homeless, McClendon tends to return to where he remembers most of the veterans staying. “I’ll also get word through sources on situations outside the ones I am already aware of. I’ll take the donated goods straight to the homeless veteran.” 

“I haven’t teamed up with many programs because I understand not all the money allocated for veterans will go to them,” he adds. This isn’t a shot at any veterans’ organizations, but most of the proceeds for these charities go to expenses outside of actual veterans. 

Photo Courtesy -Of Major Papers

Marching Forward

McClendon’s own experience has made him a vocal advocate of marijuana and how it can help veterans. While pleased with the trajectory the inevitable decriminalization and eventual legalization of marijuana is on, he’s not happy with how long it has taken to get to this point.

“It’s about damn time, even though it’s three years too late,” he says. “Too many veterans have died by suicide that could have found help through cannabis. If you spend time in combat, you must smoke some weed.”