Van der Pop

Mission to Heal


One veteran's story about cannabis use + the opioid crisis

27-year-old Trace Carrozzino is a tarot card reading U.S. military veteran who’s putting a spotlight on the opioid crisis in her community, and also the need for veterans to have access to information and education about alternatives to the addictive opiates they’re prescribed after combat.

“They know the potential of the plant but they don’t want you to have access to it, because they don’t want you healthy,” she says of government and medical professionals’ unwillingness to allow access to medical cannabis. “They don’t want you better. They want you sick and to keep buying the pills.”

Here, Trace shares her incredible journey.

Tell us about your background, and how you came to be an advocate for cannabis?

We’ll rewind back to the beginning. I’m 27, I’m from Pittsgrove, New Jersey, and where I live, the opioid epidemic is insane. It’s ridiculous. I’ve been burying my friends since I was 13-years-old. I’ve lost about 20 plus friends from car accidents, overdoses….

When I was 19, my best friend had died in a car accident and I didn’t take it that well. I was still a kid. And I just went crazy, and I found myself at a recruiter station and I thought, I’ve got to get out of here before I die too. So I up and left – I joined the military.

I sustained some injuries when I was in Germany, so I was on opiates for a good chunk of my military career. And they ended up letting me go because of all the injuries I ended up sustaining while I was there. And I ended up becoming addicted to opiates.

Basically everything I ran away from ended up happening anyway.

I thought well, that’s got to be for a reason. When I got home, I woke up one day – it was April of 2014, and I came home November 2013. And I was like, who the fuck are you? I looked in the mirror and I was like, I had lost my life. At one point I almost had lost my life; I overdosed when I was in Texas because shit was crazy.

Basically I didn’t know who I was and I withdrew on my couch for two weeks. I put down alcohol, Percocet and Clonazepam, which was kind of stupid because the two withdrawals that will kill you are Benzos and alcohol. It was my waking up moment.

I’ve used cannabis ever since. I have a life now, which is nice. I’m not a zombie anymore.

How did you get introduced to using cannabis?

When I came home, I had some friends who smoked so I hit them up, and I’m like, let me get some of that – I can’t live on pills. It’s literally hell.

In terms of advocating use for veterans, how much support are you getting in terms of shining a light on cannabis to treat these things?

A lot of people have thanked me for coming out and saying hey, stop the opioids. You can totally find relief in cannabis. And it’s helped a lot of people. But even civilians, too – I grew up in a trailer park and a friend hit me up and said, hey do you have time for an old friend? And I was like, absolutely. I never forget where I came from.

When I got there, it wasn’t like, hey let’s smoke blunts and shoot the shit. It was, I saw the spoon, I saw the needle – I saw everything – and it was like, you didn’t just call me over here to smoke a blunt. And she said, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do.

I told her, you have two options: You’re going to die this way, or you’re going to straighten your shit out. And I sat there and read her cards, and went deep into a spiritual talk with her. And she straightened out, she’s been clean for months now. All it takes it for one person to believe in you.

In terms of cannabis legislation in the States, what are you most hopeful about?

I’m hopeful for the access. Right now it’s a shit show. I had to jump through firey hoops just to get a medical card, and I still can’t afford any of that. I’m pissed off at the system in that aspect, but I’m hoping that full-blown legalization will show that it shouldn’t be this ridiculous.

What do you think the biggest factor in all of this difficulty is? The stigma? Pharmaceutical companies? Is it a combination?

I think it’s a combination, but it’s moreso the pharmaceutical companies. It would completely eliminate them, and then they wouldn’t make any money, and then doctors would be pissed off because they’re not making money. It would be a domino effect. But it just needs to happen. They’re cracking down on pharmaceutical companies because they’re killing people. And they know it.

I feel like more people are waking up to it. It’s like a plague, but it’s like hey, you can break out of this. If you’re in pain, there are other options.

Can you tell us about what you’d most like to dedicating your time towards in the future?

Helping people. A lot of what’s going on is, you’ve got a lot of people who are still sleeping but you’ve got a lot of people who are waking up. And they’re very confused. But if you can be that guiding light in the dark for anyone, that’s amazing.

I always have this thing of, you have to change the world! But to change the world, you have to change yourself. And a lot of people aren’t really willing to do that, but the some that are – you’ve just got to help guide them.

Interview by Odessa Paloma Parker

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