Grow for Vets America

Grow for Vets America

By Maryann Lavelle

     The Grow For Vets founding chapter was established January 2014 as a nonprofit corporation in Colorado by Roger Martin, a US Army veteran. The original name was Operation Grow4Vets. An excerpt from the mission statement found on the Grow For Vets website explains: “... Grow For Vets provides Veteran heroes with safe alternative to deadly prescription drugs. We connect Veterans with the knowledge and resources necessary to obtain or grow their own cannabis for treatment of their medical conditions.”
     Lori Martin, Grow For Vets Director of Operations, says they are looking for chapter leaders in cities of all states across the US where medical marijuana is legal. They are also looking to set up support chapters in the states where it is not yet legal. She explains that they are not above the law so they cannot give out cannabis in these states, something a lot of people ask about. Grow For Vets is in several states right now where some residents think the organization has some kind of write-off from the government allowing them to participate in all 50 states.
Grow For Vets takes donations and then obtains cannabis to give to the vets who need it. They also provide education on the different types of cannabis. For example, PTSD patients have found that higher THC cannabis can cause paranoia, so more of a one-to-one ratio is suggested. Individuals who are dealing with pain have found thathigher-CBD and lower-THC cannabis combinations are effective. The group also provides education on tinctures and edibles.
     A lot of members served in the Vietnam war, and back in the 70s they were smoking “dope,” so it’s still ingrained in them that cannabis is illegal and bad. These individuals do not want to smoke flower but are okay with eating edibles and taking tincture.
     A large number of veteran members are homebound and get friends to drive them to events. Getting to know other members helps them with their agoraphobia and helps promote friendships.
     Active chapters of Grow For Vets are in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan. They anticipate an Alaska chapter soon.
     According to Lori, a 2012 VA study that included 21 states found that 22 service members are lost every day to suicides and prescription drug overdoses. She estimates the national number may be more than 50 veterans each day. That is why Grow For Veterans exists—to help veterans getoff of the deadly opiates that the VA provides.
     For 10 years, the founder of Grow For Vets was prescribed 180 mg of oxycontin and 40 milligrams of Ambien, yet still could only sleep two hours a night. Then he was put on methadone and then suboxone, which he was supposed to take for 12–18 months. He was able to wean himself from it in about six weeks, using cannabis.
     Lori quit her paying job last September and is now a full-time volunteer. She is unpaid but feels fortunate that she can get by financially without a job and be able to do this work.
     The group lost a big battle on July 4, 2016, when Obama signed in the VA spending bill. That bill was titled “The Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” The bill contained provisions that had previously been passed by bipartisan votes in the House and Senate and excluded cannabis from drug testing and allowed for no-cost medical cannabisrecommendations for veterans. Unfortunately, the language was omitted from the final text by the time the bill was finally passed and signed.
     On a brighter side, Grow For Vets will be participating in the Cannabis 5K and I-502 Congress Expo. A few of the events are: a 5K run, the proceeds of which will go to the Coleman Whiting Memorial Fund, an organization that supports Project CBD; a poker tournament whose proceeds will go to various charitable organizations including Grow For Vets; a golf tournament with a grand prize of a trip for two to Amsterdam. Proceeds from the tournament will be donated to Grow For Vets. This will be a grand event—important, educational, fundraiser and fun!