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Day 2 - 2013 Florida Veterans Medical Cannabis Whistle-Stop TourMichael Krawitz for Salem-News.com
No rainbows today.. Police encounters instead.
(ORLANDO) - Unlike day 1 we started out today under clear skies. The weather afforded us the ability to take a few group snap shots before heading out to the [bigger] Orlando Veterans Hospital.
The crush of cars in the parking lot at the Orlando VA hospital made us wonder if our truck with the large banner depicting the “We Never Leave a Veteran Behind” tour logo was even noticed as we roved the lot assessing the best access point for our team to enter the facility. The day before we felt like movie stars and today we felt like groupies but later we would find out they did indeed see us coming..
Joe Sisco, Fla-NORML Outreach Chair, dropped Robert Jordan and me off in front of an appropriate door and we headed inside. The hospital was as busy and full of Veterans as the intense parking lot had implied. We wound our way through the steady stream of Vets up the hallway to the information table. A strong looking young man, named Josh, with a United States Marine Corp tattoo on his arm, asked us how he could help us.
We told him that we were looking for the Chief of Staff’s office but about that time his eye processed our matching shirts and he expressed a palpable sense of accomplishment as he acknowledged that we were the people he was instructed to watch for and that he was supposed to call HR and that they would send someone right down. Josh picked up the phone, pushed a button or two, and said “the marijuana people are here”.
Enjoying our conversation with Josh, who had relatives in a legal state and was pretty well read, we almost didn’t notice that the top public affairs rep for the hospital had joined our little circle. Mike, VA Public Affairs, is a tall charismatic figure of a man. We would come to find out later that he was United States Air Force, like me, only unlike me he served a full career which included time in Iraq!
Mike was cordial and he relayed a couple of messages to us from the Chief of Staff but his eyes really lit up when I told him we were just in there to meet with the Chief of Staff and nothing more and that our crew were all off VA property at a Veterans memorial park across the street. Evidently a routine part of his day is politely escorting well-meaning Veteran’s causes off campus. But since we had already set up in the correct space he spontaneously and rather eagerly suggested we take him out and introduce him to everyone which was an offer we jumped on.
On the way across the parking lot and street out to our information table we spoke of many things. With Robert’s help we learned of his service history and I had many messages for him to return to the Chief of Staff. He not only “got it” he actually lived in a cannabis friendly state previously and was able to conceive of the things we described and his level of preconceived bullshit was actually quite low. His major concern was keeping people like us from disturbing his hospital and he recognized we weren’t a problem, a fact that would come in handy.
Meanwhile at the info table a small number of Vets representing a wide assortment of branches of service and walks of life came over and received information but one fellow stands out. The former Army man was a local high ranking police officer and after some very creative maneuvers in traffic came to our table and took in our information with a zeal. We received no nay-sayers although one passerby was obviously troubled as he drove by reading aloud C-ANN-A-BULL??ES
We made a big hit by actually bringing the VA back to talk with the Vets! Mike was besieged with shaking hands that had never seen a VA official before. About this time I noticed the two ladies with VA badges politely “pulling on coat Mike’s coat-tales” trying to get his attention. They started talking but it was actually the blur of lights coming from the police car off in the other VA parking lot across the street they were pointing to that captivated my attention!
Jodi, do you see this? Go help? About that time Mike had already processed the situation better than I had and asked me if the guy in the truck with the big banner being detained by the police was with me? Yes, he is. Please let him know to bring over the truck. He was waiting for us. With Mike’s intervention the cop was dissuaded from any further action. He simply filed a report. The cop seemed a bit flustered when he said he would need to clear us with the Public Affairs and we stepped aside and said you mean Mike? The cop did explain to us more clearly then we had previously understood how it’s a violation of rules to even have a Vet sitting in a truck in the parking lot waiting for another Vet with business inside the hospital if that business isn’t part of his or her medical treatment. This is probably going to be important to keep in mind as we approach the next VA hospital on our trek tomorrow which is not only even bigger but has seen an very recent incident with a Veteran quickly escalate to become a fatal shooting by their police!! Cross your fingers for us.
Happy 4:20 !!! Day 3 starts soon, see you then!!
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