Pot helping veterans cope with PTSD

Photo by Jessica Stoiku

Canadian veteran Fabian Henry speaks to students about his work with Marijuana for Trauma.

Kayleigh Kennedy’s father is a Canadian war vet who has served in several countries, including two tours of Afghanistan.

The Durham College (DC) developmental service worker student says she “can’t even try to think what he’s gone through.”

That’s why she supports her dad smoking marijuana to help deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Kennedy shared her story in the Global Class at DC in late September when Canadian veteran Fabian Henry spoke to students about his work with Marijuana for Trauma, an organization established in 2013 that advocates the medical use of cannabis for veterans suffering with PTSD.

There are now 12 Marijuana for Trauma centres spread throughout Canada, including four in Ontario.

Kennedy says her father has been suffering with PTSD since she can remember. He served in the Canadian army, touring Cyprus, Bosnia, Somalia during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and twice in Afghanistan during the early 2000s.

According to Kennedy, he was angry and depressed. His pain was at its highest and he couldn’t leave the house. He was on the last straw with his recovery and reached out for a more natural remedy. That was when he discovered Marijuana for Trauma.

“It’s a place where you can go and meet other people that went through the same thing you did,” says Kennedy.

Through the help of fellow veterans, Kennedy’s father was able to cope with his PTSD and live a more functioning life, going out and socializing with other people.

“I think that’s really good for him to interact with other people like that without having to have alcohol as a crutch anymore,” says Kennedy. “Again it’s not a cure, but it’s really something that helps him get through the day.”

Kennedy doesn’t know if it was a particular traumatic event or the entire experience that still triggers his PTSD.

Jessica Stoiku Durham College student Kayleigh Kennedy speaks about her father's experience with PTSD and Marijuana for Trauma
Jessica Stoiku
Durham College student Kayleigh Kennedy speaks about her father’s experience with PTSD and Marijuana for Trauma.

“I can’t even try to think what he’s gone through. He doesn’t tell me all the stories, of course. I think that’s stuff that he buries deep within himself.”

With the stigma against marijuana, Kennedy says her father was worried his kids would see him as a stoner who wouldn’t leave the basement. Now, however, he embraces taking his medication. It’s what gets him through the day, she says.

According to Kennedy, her father comes across as a very strong man despite his experience with PTSD. She explains he’s like a lobster with a hard shell, but is a soft mess on the inside.

“We’re all like that. And I think I’ve learned a lot about myself through his actions. He’s my hero, he’s my father,” says Kennedy.

Henry says he started Marijuana for Trauma because he believes it is our fundamental right as humans to make our own decisions.

Whether it’s “your right to walk into an LCBO to get a case of beer, or to walk into a grocery store and get a Twinkie, or walk into a regulated, restricted cannabis centre and buy cannabis,” says Henry.

There are no specialized medications for PTSD, according to Henry, and he adds marijuana is only one element in helping those suffering from it. Henry says marijuana contains chemicals that can help people with PTSD.

Henry refers to cannabis as a Band-Aid, not a cure.

“You use the cannabis to treat the symptoms of PTSD. You still need the counselling, the EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) therapy…CBT therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy). You [have to] see a psychologist to process your injuries,” says Henry.

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Jessica Stoiku is a second year journalism student at Durham College. With a passion for writing, she enjoys exposing the arts and culture stories of people within the community for The Chronicle. She hopes to work for a publication that focuses on human interest and issues on a broader scale.


  1. Great write up on this event Jessica. I am so grateful Kayleigh decided to share her story during this event. It just solidified the importance of treating those that suffer from PTSD . A huge shout out to Fabian Henry, the CEO for Marijuana for Trauma, Dr. Grinspoon, the head psychiatrist at Harvard and all the great people that helped pull this event together.
    Well done!