Photo of Ryan Begin with a hat on in the foreground of the photo.
Ryan Begin is an Iraq War Veteran with a disability gaining
national attention for his activism. Photo courtesy of Roger Leisner.

Ryan Begin: A Profile

By Mike Reynolds

In the part year or so of knowing Ryan Begin, I’ve been consisently impressed with his advocacy and activism. Begin, a disabled veteran, served two tours in Iraq before suffering a career ending injury when an IED maimed his right arm. He had quite a difficult road, also dealing with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other emotional issues as a result of his injuries. Begin, who was talking “well over 100 pills a day” had some serious psychiatric issues including attempts at suicide upon returning to the states, and would wean himself off all of those meds and replace them with one: medical cannabis.

Now after getting to know Ryan (and being on some of the same meds he came off of), it simply would have been laudable that he reduced his psych med intake. Begin not only was able to do that but was able to be more functional.. Ryan is one of the most articulate advocates for medical marijuana. Currently he is working on two separate but related issues. He is working on trying to expand the list of covered conditions in Maine to include PTSD, a process that is currently on hold. Ryan is also pressuring the federal government to allow an Arizona based researcher access to government supplied marijuana to test the effects of cannabis on PTSD.

Begin started a petition on change.org and the petition gained a few thousand signatures before being written about on Alternet. A few days later, Ryan was featured on a wired.com blog. His petition went to over 40000 signatures and his activism was indeed spreading, being seen often at the Occupy Augusta encampment at Capitol Park.

 When fellow veteran and PTSD sufferer Justin Crowley-Smilek died after being shot by a police officer in mid-November, it was Ryan who put the call out through various networks to get veterans together to discuss some form of mentoring in conjunction with police.

 
Additionally, Begin is also in the early planning stages of a trip to Washington, DC where he plans to submit his signatures to the Department of Health and Human Services and has been discussing other related issues with people from as far away as California. All of this is a complete change from when his mother had to “worry if he tried to kill himself” if she had not heard from him in a few hours. My prediction is that Ryan Begin will definitely make himself very well heard and understood in the coming years.