By Philip Wong
Meet Vince Lefaive, a former 31-year patrol sergeant, now retired from the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS). Lefaive is an advocate for first responder PTSD and a proud cannabis patient. He is also one very passionate individual when it comes to policing and has no regrets, stating he would do it all over again, if he could.
By Philip Wong
Q: What was your perception of cannabis use when you first started your career in Durham Region 30 years ago?
I have always found this question interesting for a number of reasons. You see as a rookie, I was under oath to enforce our laws and to this day believe in that duty, we live in the best part of the best country in the world, and my faith in our system has never wavered.
That being said, I took pride in the existence of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and when I had the opportunity to counsel offenders, say young people – in many cases good young people – I had caught smoking a joint, as opposed to ruining their young lives with a criminal record, I seized that opportunity.
The shorter answer is in all of my years enforcing the law and sharing in the tragedy of families whose lives have been completely destroyed by alcohol and/or opiates (both lawfully obtained and unlawful), I concluded that efforts at criminalizing cannabis use were utterly futile. Please keep in mind I am referring to individual use, and respectfully limit this reply to that aspect of the equation and not the larger picture of orbiting structured and organized crime.
Q: With over 30 years on the force, you must have seen a lot of “different” things as first on the scene. How would you describe PTSD to someone?
For me, First Responders’ PTSD holds a special and insidious characteristic. Studies have revealed, (and I have been part of a coast-to-coast study for some 23 months now at www.thecannabisreporter.com) that over a 30-year career, many of us can expect to live the tragedies of many lifetimes.
What manifested for me were relentless replays of incidents, or “ triggers,” where I would find myself bathed in smells, sounds and visions which replay relentlessly, challenging your ability to function with a semblance of health. Coping mechanisms for so many with PTSD represent a desperately unhealthy solution. Addiction, reckless behaviour and denial for so many prove a gateway to a collapse in whole health and ultimately for some, suicide. What I have learned about the suicide issue and believe strongly is that for so many in the profession, they are often true A-type personalities, and A-type personalities typically relentlessly seek solutions, and suicide is viewed by some as just that. It sounds callous to simplify this equation in such a way, however, for me this is my experience.
Q: What changed for you?
For me Jan. 8, 2018 was the tipping point. You see, I was in treatment for some 15 months at that point, I was doing everything right, the application of cannabis to my condition through Apollo Research had demonstrated relief, and my personal and professional life was absolutely on par with my expectations. However, by midnight on January 8, I found myself suffering an absolutely terrifying internal bleed, one which essentially changed my perspective in terms of remaining anonymous. I had finished a 48-hour work tour and had a 12-hour layover before entering back into another 12-hour extra duties shift. A nightmare featuring Mike Tyson punching out a fire hydrant played into what was happening in my abdomen. Thankfully the bleed would not prove fatal, but for me, during that midnight episode, I was convinced this is how I was to die. For death to visit in such an unholy manner insisted that I speak, and to take the fight for my life to the very public I now ask to judge me. I am now the evidence some may attempt to claim does not exist.
Q: You said, “Cannabis saved my life.” How so?
For me, ensuring cannabis is treated as a safe (when used as directed) non-toxic and affordable medicine for first responders and their health care benefits providers and a gateway to better health, is something I pledge to demonstrate during every intelligent interaction. My health was absolutely headed for disaster; for me to say I am on public speaking tours to share the complete healing capabilities for so many, is my new calling.
My profession insisted that I serve justice. I only ask now that after more than three decades of sacrifice, that same justice not allow me to sit alone in front of the very organization I grew up with, expected to remain silent.
First responders sell their souls to the profession to one degree or another; my function is to ensure a means to obtain a full refund is both available and recommended. It absolutely saved my life; it is saving others too, I assure you, I represent several in my organization who have chosen to remain anonymous, and I absolutely respect that right. I speak for them all regardless, including those we have lost in the line of duty. This is my way of not forgetting them, to assure them I am working very hard to prevent their situation from repeat, which we are seeing in epidemic proportions.
Q: Fast forward to today – how are things with you and DRPS?
I assure everyone that I am being treated very well by my organization. I have many friends of all ranks who support me. However, I have come to terms with the fact that our insurers, namely WSIB and private providers, require a great deal more education on the subject of the medicine.
I do however have to insist on making appearances at Police Services Board meetings, the same Board that is fully aware of my situation, to ensure that all stakeholders in the equation are fully educated and informed as to my success.
I have complete faith now that the case has been made professionally and by an officer with an impeccable service record that included decorations and promotions, that my service will eventually relent and allow the program onto an accepted treatment schedule. That is to say, covered by the same benefits that prove ready to cover a whole range of highly toxic and questionable pharmaceuticals. My organization taught me how to lead, how to do the right thing, and how to write. This is where I am. For my assurances that lives have been saved, that evidence speaks for itself in that respect, to continue to be ignored just does not suit me.
Q: So what is next?
With the absolutely jaw-droppingly amazing people I have met in the medical cannabis community, I know in my heart of hearts that this is my next profession. I intend to turn my efforts precisely in the direction of patients’ rights and responsibilities. Gratitude plays into my every day, and I’m grateful for all of this.
To listen to Lefaive’s podcast from the Cannabis Reporter, click here https://www.thecannabisreporter.com/advantage-canada-ptsd/
Originally posted at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cannabis-cops-ptsd-philip-wong/
Phillip Wong is a content producer for Plexus Cybermedia.