SHELBY, N.C. — Jon Allen, Lyle Nicholson and Josh Biddix are all part of a brotherhood. They’re veterans. They’ve been through experiences that only other service members can understand.

It bonds them.

What You Need To Know

  • Medical marijuana legalization legislation passed in the state Senate, but has stalled in the House

  • Three veterans say using cannabis for pain relief and sleep aid has changed their lives for the better

  • They're frustrated that a bill that has statewide support isn't moving

  • They say this would help veterans and people with health issues live more fullfilling lives

Another bond is their advocacy, and the way they say that medical marijuana has changed their lives.

For Allen, it was his back pain that led him to trying cannabis for the first time.

“It locked up one morning trying to get my daughter out of the crib and missed a few days of work. And I kind of grew up like with the stigma of no drugs, you know, that kind of thing, and just had that old school mentality about it. And I gave it a shot out of just desperation, really,” Allen said.

Biddix served in law enforcement for a decade after his service but was forced to medically retire.

He says using cannabis changed the way he was able to function.

“I mean, it's been amazing for, you know, acute pain relief or even chronic pain. Um, and then of course, the post-traumatic type stuff with the anger and the sleep. Sleep is huge. Just you're not sleeping, and everything's hurting, and you're fired up anyway,” Biddix said.

Nicholson says he wasn’t sure what to expect the first time he tried it, but it came with side effects he never imagined.

He says he was able to sleep in a way he never did before, and “it helps me kind of process things without feeling as much or realizing why I act or react to certain things,” Nicholson said. “Tone down the anger and things. I never really thought that would be side effects of, of this substance.”

All three men took the traditional medical path for years to deal with their pain. But they say cannabis changed their lives so much, they’re willing to speak about it, even though medical marijuana isn’t legal in North Carolina yet.

“Listen, I know people that I go to church with that drink beer, and it seems to be fine and copacetic with all of those people. But there's not anybody that's going to convince me that alcohol is somehow better or safer or makes you feel better the next day than cannabis,” Allen said.

Even though the legislation passed through the state Senate for a second session, it’s stalled again in the House.

Some legislators who are against legalizing medical marijuana say they believe it’s a slippery slope and the first step toward recreational legalization.

All three men live in Cleveland County, the home of House Speaker Tim Moore.

Moore has final say over what legislation does or does not make it to the House floor, and it doesn’t appear the medical marijuana legislation will this session.

It’s frustrating for all three men, who see how other ways of coping and medicating have impacted their fellow veterans.

“I never struggled with the alcohol or the opiates, but I've got a lot of friends who have drank themselves to death or come close to it,” Nicholson said.

It’s the second time advocates have seen medical marijuana get close to the finish line but not make it to a House floor vote.

The three men say it would make a huge difference for the veteran community and others who need pain management but don’t want to continue to turn to opiates.

“We all have jobs, we all have families. We're all functioning, and I'm functioning better now than I was. And it's just a little frustrating that you have such support in the whole state, and nobody's got the guts to actually take it all the way through, it seems,” Nicholson said.

They believe politics is playing out, and they’re the ones who are left behind in the process.

“To be quite honest right now, in current times, it makes you not believe in the system that you defended to a certain extent, and that I used to believe in for years,” Allen said. “I just don't believe in it anymore. Left, right. I don't believe in it, and I hate to say that because I'd like to believe in it, but I don't.”