The cannabis industry has evolved greatly over the past decade. What was once an illicit products across most of the country is now a legitimate business attracting entrepreneurs across a variety of different backgrounds. When it comes to cannabis as a medical - including self dosing - product, no application excites us as much as the work companies like San Diego-based HVGC are doing to help our military veterans recover from physical, emotional, and mental ailments. Let's learn more about what they are doing to help.
I really appreciate the sort of "Inside Joke" about being the Helman Valley Growers Company. I would imagine pretty much every veteran gets that but do many civilian customers supporting your brand understand the reference?
HVGC came from Marines in the 1st Marine Raider Battalion. When we served in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan, we became part of the Helmand Valley Gun Club. Many would get an HVGC tattoo. We wanted to honor those who served in Helmand. We put HVGC on the wall and it came to us relatively quickly, Helmand Valley Growers Company. We talked to the men who served and were part of the Helmand Valley Gun Club. We wanted to ensure that we had their support using the letters and explained our mission and what we wanted to accomplish. They were in full support and gave us their blessing. We are very proud when we get asked this question because it allows us to talk about the Heroes who served in the Helmand Province.
There are many "veteran owned" cannabis companies but you guys seem different, it looks like you guys are really truly focused on helping veterans and not just using your years of service to make a buck with branding. What drives you guys forward?
You are exactly right. I have been at this since 2016 and have not taken a salary since. Our mission is the biggest priority. We are a brand with a soul. Seeing what was happening to veterans and the suicide epidemic, we had to take action. Our bottom line is to provide veterans an alternative from opiates, prove the medical benefits of cannabis, and have it available in the VA medical system. Veterans are our driving force. We each end the day by thinking, “What have I done for a veteran today?”
What are some of the ailments and challenges that veterans have that can be helped with a cannabis regimen?
The feedback that we have heard from veterans is that it helps with pain, sleep, anxiety, along with other symptoms that are affiliated with the symptoms of posttraumatic stress.
With the collapse of the Afghan government last week, I know many veterans who served there may be experiencing a lot of frustration if not outright depression and maybe other symptoms. What advice do you have for these folks to get help?
The men and women who served in Afghanistan have nothing to do with what we are seeing play out in the news. This includes our Afghan partners who have been wrongly blamed for the collapse of Afghanistan to the Taliban. This is purely the responsibility of decision-makers in Washington D.C. not having a viable plan for a successful, conditions-based, withdrawal. To the families out there who lost loved ones, they should know that their loved ones served with honor and provided Afghanistan a tremendous opportunity to be successful. These are just poor decisions made by some high-ranking officials up in our government. Politicians messed up the endgame, there is no other way to look at it.
What can we do to help these men and women who gave so much for our country?
The main thing is to treat them with dignity and respect. Some wounds are not visible to the naked eye. Understand where they have been and what they may be dealing with on a daily basis. Give them opportunities. After all, they went forward to fight for us and our way of life. Now it is our turn to help them live the American Dream that they fought so hard to defend.
What is the role of your Battle Brothers Foundation in terms of supporting veterans with ongoing mental and physical health support?
Battle Brothers Foundation works in a three-tier approach. Personal, Medical, and Economic. We help active duty members transition into the private sector. We help out with VA Disability claims. If they are suffering from alcoholism, opiate abuse, PTS, or all of the above, we can help locate a treatment center to help them learn how to live above their demons. The last part is economic, where we help veterans find a job and give them that sense of purpose akin to when they served in the military and hopefully avoid mistakes that they cannot come back from. We take a holistic approach and we customize the program to meet the needs of the individual veteran.
There is clearly a lot more research as well as product development that needs to take place to continue unlocking the benefits of cannabis, what's next on your radar? What are you most excited to see in the future?
We are very excited to work this year with a respected team of medical professionals, who are a great group of like-minded men and women. They are passionate about veterans and ensuring that they live their best lives when they return from war. We feel very good about our initial study that will begin shortly. We feel very strongly that we are going to prove that medical cannabis can reduce the symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Once we complete our first study, we will have the ability to develop an appropriate formula and treatment protocol. We plan on having about three studies and then from there, we feel that the data will be undeniable and we look forward to working with the government to advance future studies.