Feature on NJ.com - Q&A with Bryan Buckley
Bryan Buckley is co-founder and CEO of the Helmand Valley Growers Company.
Buckley, who served as a Marine Raider, a special operations component of the Marine Corps, founded the company alongside other Raiders. Here, he talks about recent discussions he's had with Sen. Cory Booker's staff, getting more veterans cannabis treatment and how to get that treatment inside the Department of Veteran Affairs and the active duty military. Find Buckley on Linkedin. The interview has been edited for clarity.
Q: You said you had a recent conversation with Sen. Cory Booker's staff, tell me about that.
A: I was out in Washington in mid-September, it was me and some other veterans. I said "I'm going to be very clear with you guys, the bill you put forward is not a great bill, it's essentially California on steroids, where you're overtaxing, overregulating."Those things are making it difficult and the barriers to entry are going to be even more difficult, and it's just pointing to big business being the people who are going to survive. It almost feels like cannabis is the infinite tax tree.
Q: What do you think happens if the Department of Veteran Affairs prescribes cannabis and will there be additional funding when it comes to cannabis studies? If they do get funding that would be one of the largest branches of the government and healthcare systems getting involved in cannabis research.
A: People get frustrated with doctors - looking from their standpoint they're a doctor, they have a license. They're not going to tell you to take anything without knowing exactly what's in it and rightfully so. Here we are doing research that we can publish in medical journals. Once we show that we have a formulation and treatment protocol that's repeatable and accessible, having the same results, that means it can go nationwide. You're probably going to see pharmaceutical companies say 'Aha, I can make money off of this." Purchase a company like us, that way they can mass distribute their product to the VA system. We know how it g o e s in Congress. To get elected, you need money, and pharmaceutical companies have a lot of money. They're a very powerful lobbying arm.
Q: For the active-duty military, how do you imagine getting this on the agenda of the Pentagon?
A: I think once we show the benefits it's having for veterans, eventually, the military side will look at this. Why don't we give our medics cannabis that can be provided to military members if appropriate? They would probably run this through the Joint Special Operations people first, see how it works, then go through everyone else in the military.
Q: What unique things do veterans bring to the cannabis space?
A: During the Global War on Terrorism, we lost an estimated 7,000 people. During that same period we lost nearly 31,000 to suicide back here in America.
So clearly what we're doing right now is not the answer and we need to be open-minded to look a t some of the other alternative
medications. Quite frankly I don't think it stops a t cannabis. I think there are some interesting things in the psychedelic realm. I've heard rumors that MDMA is going to pass approval in 2023. We should flip every rock possible to see what's underneath it, to go help these veterans a n d active duty forces. It's become a massive epidemic in the country and it just seems like one of those things we brush under the rug.