Returning veterans’ issues are well documented: alcoholism, drug addiction, anxiety, physical pain, sleeplessness and worst of all, suicide. There’s also a lack of employment and the emotional support many returning veterans need.
“We learned early on about veterans and why they were in this position,” George Sadler, CEO of the cartridges and edibles company Platinum Vape, said in an interview last week. “That’s why we’re real passionate now about this company [that’s] in our facility, under our wings.”
“This company” would be Buckley’s startup: HVGC, which, working with Platinum, creates strains for vaping and makes its home right on the premises of Platinum’s San Diego headquarters.
“It’s a true partnership, where we help each other out,” says Buckley, HVGC’s CEO. “They have a lot of respect for the military … we kind of help each other. We’re one big family now.”
That family has all kinds of military themes woven in: HVGC” is short for “Helmand Valley Growers Company,” named for Afghanistan’s most volatile province. There, Buckley, a former Special Operations Marine Raider and team commander, fought with several of his current HVGC colleagues.
Before that time, in July 2009, Helmand was the site of a major U.S. offensive involving 4,000 Marines.
Then there’s the story of how HVGC and Platinum first connected: Buckley and members of his former military unit had initiated the Battle Brothers Foundation, to fund medical cannabis research for veterans’ issues.
George Sadler and his son and partner, Cody Sadler, chose the Battle Brothers Foundation as one of eight charities (plus another military-themed nonprofit, Project Sanctuary, through Platinum’s social equity program, REACT.
The Sadlers, who have no military background themselves, were drawn into veterans’ plight, George says, back in 2011 when he and Cody launched their business as a cultivation and delivery company. “Of the people we delivered to, a lot had amazing stories,” Sadler says. “We became passionate about how, no matter what branch of the military people were coming from, out of Iraq and all this fighting, coming into the United States, they would be handed all these prescriptions and the suicide rate was going crazy.
“We found that cannabis was really helping a lot of people but dramatically helping the veterans. And just like anyone else, we felt the need to participate and help however we could. It was just monetary donations, or giving free product to people that couldn’t afford it and needed it more than the average recreational user.”
The Sadlers hired more than a dozen veterans for their California operation (joining the company’s 230 employees spread across three states, soon to be five). The connection between the Sadlers and Buckley and his military Brothers’ foundation, then, was a natural one. Seven months ago, HVGC was born.
At that fledgling company, Buckley, with colleagues like Andre “Bo” Bosier, a retired Marine Corps Force Recon and MARSOC veteran; Matt Curran, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan; and Tommy Fejarang, a former Navy Hospital Corpsman, at first categorized their initial six vaping strains as part of the recreational side of cannabis on.ly.
But then, Buckley said, they found that one particular strain, Afghanimal, (colorfully named along with other 90 percent THC strains like Purple Trainwreck, Purple Kush and more) was actually helping veterans suffering the “phantom pain” after-effects of amputations.
Accordingly, Afghanimal is now the focus of a research study. Platinum is also expanding its own philanthropic effort, having donated an initial $50,000 to Shelter to Soldier, a foundation which trains rescue dogs from shelters as support animals for veterans.
Sadler said he and Cody have realized that recreational users are, in a round-about way, sponsoring Platinum’s “give back” to veterans’ medical need.
“Sometimes it’s almost embarrassing to see what’s happening on the veterans’ side,” Sadler says. “These guys who are fighting for our country come home and there’s minimal support on an ‘exiting program’ … they need jobs and they need help.”
Boot camp may prepare young soldiers and Marines to fight, but what’s also needed, Sadler says, is “an un-boot camp, where they can figure out how life is going to be.
“It’s incredible that we don’t have that.”
As for the future, Buckley says, his company has no plans to go its separate way. “Right now we’re going to keep going as is and keep growing together,” he says.
As for the Memorial Day observance today, Buckley says, he’s going to take “time to remember those who went forth to defend our freedom and did not return the same way.
“We all raised our hand and wrote a blank check to the people of this country,” Buckley says. “There were some —and we all gave some – but there were some that gave all they had. So I’ll think of them whom we lost.”