“I tried cannabis and it was the first time my mind really felt at peace.” said Bryan Buckley, a former U.S. Marine Raider.
Veterans have long played a role in the cannabis community. It’s often when faced with terminally ill patients, kids with horrible disorders or wounded warriors that lawmakers and society recognize the benefits that cannabis can bring. Some veterans like Bryan, coming home to states with medical cannabis programs, have even found in the plant their new missions.
Buckley founded Helmand Valley Growers Company (HVGC) out of a desire to share healing through cannabis. He saw the damage being done by inadequate treatment of his fellow veterans. The chief executive told Profiles in Legalization how the cannabis industry found him during a February interview.
“We can keep going down this route of giving veterans opiates,” Bryan said, “or we can look at some alternative medicine. I think this is a great course of action with medicinal cannabis.” He notes that opiates have led to epidemics of addiction and veteran suicides.
A Cannabis Company by Veterans for Veterans
Buckley runs HGVC with two fellow special forces veterans, Andy Miears and Matt Curran. In a previous life, all three served in U.S. special forces, fighting the War on Terror. Their new mission is to help fellow veterans heal with cannabis and adjust to civilian life.
Don’t try to find Helmand Valley on a U.S. map. The company’s name references bonds shared through serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Though the atmosphere and goals in California cannabis are very different, Bryan says his skills set did transfer over to civilian life.
“You’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable and be very agile.” Bryan told Profiles. “Ironically, yeah, things that I did in the military very much prepared me for my life in the cannabis industry.”
Buckley first consumed cannabis to heal the mental and physical pains that many veterans bring home with them. After fighting for his country, he suffered from insomnia and chronic pain. Still, he worried about addictive and dangerous prescriptions often used to treat these conditions. The relief he felt through cannabinoid therapy opened his mind to new opportunities.
Like so many medical cannabis users, Buckley was blown away by the benefits and wanted to share them with others. He made good on that by creating a cannabis company with a purpose: to bring the good news about cannabis to all vets.
Still, Buckley knew he could do more than just inform veterans about cannabis. That’s why he founded Battle Brothers in 2016.
Lending Brothers and Sisters in Arms a Hand
Battle Brothers Foundation is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, registered in California. According to their website, the foundation Buckley founded “empowers veterans through community-based personal development, economic upward mobility, and progressive medical treatments to better their lives and the lives of their families.”
Returning from war is often difficult. The work of readjusting to civilian life while coping with mental and physical wounds, can be maddening. More than just helping to heal their pain with cannabis, Buckley’s aim is to keep vets from coping through self-destruction methods.
Part of the foundation’s mission is helping veterans find gainful employment.
“So a veteran has a job, and hopefully you have them avoid a mistake they can’t come back from.” said Buckley. “The best way to do that is to give them that sense of purpose like they did when they served in the military.”
Battle Brothers also wants to lead the way when it comes to cannabis research. An observational study of the efficacy of cannabis for treating post-traumatic stress is in the works. Buckley says that 100% of HGVC profits go toward the Veteran Research Initiative being created by the foundation.
“With the first $50,000 of profits, we paid for our study design,” Buckley told us, noting that an Institutional Review Board approved the design. “Now we’re just gearing up to get some research going.”
Advocacy and Advice to Aspiring Cannabis Operators
While policies regarding cannabis continue to relax as the stigma of prohibition declines, advocacy remains important. Activists will continue to rally, but they need the right message. Buckley feels that veterans of foreign wars can be especially powerful forces for change.
“We have a good story, in terms of being veterans, where we can tell people on Capitol Hill, ‘You sent us to war, now it’s your turn to fix us, right?’” Buckley said. “We can be that tip of the spear to kind of punch it through. It’s not like medical cannabis will just be legal for veterans, it’s gonna be legal for all the patients that would benefit from it as well.”
Buckley and Battle Brothers will continue to help their struggling brothers and sisters. For some of them, employment in the burgeoning cannabis industry may hold great promise. For others, starting a cannabis business of their own might be an option.
Buckley shared some advice for aspiring cannabis business operators based on his own experiences.
“The first and most important thing is to get a lawyer and a CPA that understand tax code 280E,” Buckley told us. “So you can set up your cannabis organization the appropriate way so you can get the maximum benefits from it.”
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