Insights From a Veteran-owned Cannabis Company

In 2019, Bryan Buckley, President, and CEO of Helmand Valley Growers Company (HVGC) joined Cannabis Marketing Live to talk about veterans and cannabis and launching a new company. Given the popularity of that episode, Bryan is joining us to talk about where things are today with HVGC and cannabis in California. 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

✳️ What is Helmand Valley Growers Company

✳️ About the cannabis industry in California

✳️ Where we’re at with cannabis research in the U.S.

Welcome to Cannabis Marketing Live – All Puff. No Fluff! 

Many of us are not aware of the challenges some veterans face – alcoholism, opiate abuse, post-traumatic stress, and in worse cases, even a deadly combination of all of the above.

Could cannabis be the answer for many who have been struggling with these issues? And if it is, what can we do to finally legalize its use? 

What we probably need is a company that is focused and driven on its mission to help veterans fight their “inner demons” and transition back to society. 

That’s why I’m excited to bring back the President and CEO of Helmand Valley Growers Company (HVGC), Brian Buckley, to talk about his thoughts on the future of cannabis as an alternative treatment option for those suffering from PTSD or other mental health conditions.

Bryan will also share insights into the current state of affairs regarding veteran access to medical marijuana programs across the country.

Getting to Know Our Featured Guest

Bryan is the President and CEO of Helmand Valley Growers Company. HVGC was founded by the United States Special Operations Veterans (Marine Raiders). Since its inception, HVGC has been in discussions with some of the cannabis industry’s top researchers and has developed a veteran-based protocol to effectively prove the benefits of medical cannabis. HVGC is supported and essentially ran by three Marine Raiders that served following 9-11.

As a service-disabled veteran-owned business, HVGC is intimately aware of the daily challenges that our fellow veteran brothers and sisters face as a result of their time spent on the battlefield. Some of these wounds are not visible to the naked eye.

About our host:

Kendra Losee, Founder of Mota Marketing, helps cannabis and hemp CBD companies jumpstart their brand and accelerate their sales. With more than 20 years of award-winning marketing experience, she specializes in creating and executing marketing strategies that help companies grow. Kendra hosts a Facebook Live show, Cannabis Marketing Live, All Puff, No Fluff, and regularly teaches graduate-level social media and marketing courses.


Can you tell us a bit about your background and the Helmand Valley Growers Company (HVGC)?

Bryan spent nine years as a Marine Raider in the United States Marine Corps. When he transitioned out of the military, he realized that there’s so much going on with the veteran community. Bryan noticed the massive challenges several of the veterans are facing. Since then, he has worked extensively to help vets get access to the care they need. 

Bryan soon thereafter established a non-profit organization called Battle Brothers, where veterans gain access to personal, medical, and economic support. 

Bryan Buckley quote about Battler Brothers, a non-profit organization.

“We do VA disability claims. If a veteran suffers from alcoholism, opiate abuse, or post-traumatic stress, we get them into a facility to help them recover.

Battle Brothers is more like a big brother or big sister network. “

– Bryan Buckley

As he continued working with the veteran population, Bryan became more interested in creating something positive for the veteran community. He soon established the Helmand Valley Growers Company, also known as HVGC, which he hoped would help veterans make a positive impact in their lives.

“We help veterans find jobs so they have a sense of purpose like they did while serving in the military — and hopefully, we can help them avoid making a mistake. 

From there, we started looking deep into the medical cannabis research and looked at just ways of how we could do this.” 

– Bryan Buckley

Bryan also shared how he tried to push more cannabis research as high up in Congress. 

“We had some opportunities to meet with some members of the Congress,” Bryan continued, “and they said, if you have data and have American doctors who can back it up, you are going to have a ‘really good argument’.” 

Bryan took the challenge and partnered with an Israeli firm. He also brought in a couple of American doctors to the lab to work on cannabis research. 

HVGC started with a mission, but the studies are now in the final phase. The IRB has approved human trials, meaning that they are nearing completion. Bryan and the rest of the team are looking into the effects of medical cannabis on PTSD.

Looking back, Bryan recalled how their first study cost around $50,000, but it was paid for by all the profits they received from the cannabis community. They plan on doing the same thing right now as well. One hundred percent of their earnings will be used for medical cannabis for veterans research. 

“It’s a great way for us to do a call to arms and have everyone support what we’re doing. And we truly believe veterans will be the ones who can really push us across the goal line and make medical cannabis legal.” 

– Bryan Buckley

 

Can you talk a bit about the HVGC products? Where are they available in California? 

Bryan shared how they started with just three distillate vape pens. Their choices back then were the preferences of most veterans, with an extreme focus on the products that worked for them to help cope with their PTSD. 

But HVGC has expanded so much since then. In fact, they will be launching one-to-ones, live resins, along with pre-rolls soon. But it’s far from over because the entire team is thinking of expanding a variety of products to give more options to consumers. 

“We do have some shops up in Northern California, along with some delivery services. We’re continuing to expand. What we do is reinvest back to the company, reinvest in talent, and continue to expand.”

– Bryan Buckley

Bryan recommends checking out their website for the complete list of shops that carry their products. 

How has the cannabis industry in California changed these past two years? 

The state’s recreational market changed when Proposition 64 was voted in 2016, which allows the specified recreational adult use of marijuana.

“But just because the state passed, that didn’t mean every municipality adopted,” Bryan warned.

However, these past three years, he saw how more and more municipalities accept cannabis into their communities. Aside from that, these municipalities began seeing the benefits, like tax revenues that help build community infrastructure. 

Bryan Buckley quote about cannabis in California.

“The brands are still expanding, but you also see some kind of consolidation. You also get to see who the pretenders are and who the contenders are.”

– Bryan Buckley

Your values have reached different corners of your company. Can you talk a bit about how you did that and why you set it up this way? 

“Having a father who was a disabled veteran from Vietnam, I know firsthand what the effects of PTSD are — not just on the person, but on their family, their friends, and their whole community. Anything we can do to help out veterans is so critical, not just for the cannabis industry, but as a country.”

– Kendra Losee 

Bryan explained how his values came together after talking to many people within the military service.

“Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. We’re just doing what Marines typically do, and we’d like to leave places better than we found them,” Bryan continued. 

Bryan said that he really doesn’t think much about how he’s doing it. He just wants to do the right things, and that’s the main reason why he’s running the foundation and HVGC. Their mission has taken charge of their business. 

Bryan Buckley quote, ""We're not just people who are out there just trying to hit the green rush and make a quick buck. We really want to solve a problem. We're going to put forward solutions that we feel very confident about, and we're going to change the medical landscape here in America."

“We’re not just people who are out there just trying to hit the green rush and make a quick buck. We really want to solve a problem. We’re going to put forward solutions that we feel very confident about, and we’re going to change the medical landscape here in America.”

– Bryan Buckley

Can you talk a bit about the impact of PTSD and how far-reaching that is? How does it affect our lives today? 

Bryan shared that he, himself, had been diagnosed with 100% post-traumatic stress. 

“PTSD is like a demon. But you can never really exorcise your demons. You just have to learn how to live above them.”

– Bryan Buckley

Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to live above PTSD. What makes it worse is that it’s often difficult for their loved ones to cope with or even understand the struggles that come with PTSD. 

“PTSD is kind of relatively new. If you’re dealing with a veteran who’s struggling with PTSD, you really don’t know what to do to help him.”

– Bryan Buckley

But still, Bryan thinks that America has been understanding to those who struggle with PTSD. Nowadays, several Americans have begun to accept and embrace post-traumatic stress, unlike in the past, wherein it’s just something that we thought we could easily brush off. 

“I think what’s been great as a culture in America is that we’ve accepted PTSD and embraced it. We understand that there’s something we have to do — and that’s where I think people are becoming very open-minded.”

– Bryan Buckley

Can you talk a little bit about what’s going into the research that you’re doing?

Cannabis, currently, is classified as a Schedule I Narcotic in the US, which means it’s a tier above cocaine. But Bryan thinks it just got caught up in the drug war. 

It was way back in the 70s when the Nixon administration declared cannabis as a Schedule I Narcotic, bringing it to the same category as heroin and LSD. This classification system has been frustrating for research companies, like the HVGC, as it limits the scope of research that they can undertake. 

With cannabis tied up to a Schedule I, Bryan hopes that the current administration and its Congress would at least move its category to a Schedule III status so that more research opportunities would open up. 

Right now, only those who are associated with the National Institue of Drug Abuse, also known as NIDA, can conduct specific types of cannabis research. 

But Bryan thinks that’s going to change because the HVGC is working on their private IRB, and they’re going to be the first in North America ever to do so once it gets approval. 

“Working with our partners, we’ll refine the genetics and make what works and what is the most effective for the symptoms of post-traumatic stress.”

– Bryan Buckley

Do you think the new administration is helping in that regard? 

“It’s too early to tell,” Bryan admitted.

They’ve been told that the cannabis topic was not part of the new administration’s first hundred-day agenda. But it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. 

“I think both Democrats and Republicans are starting to see the way clearly. I think being good stewards, we have to provide them with the ammunition they need. And we’re really excited about our possibilities — to have something brand new coming at them that’s backed by American doctors.”

– Bryan Buckley

What else can you tell us about the research that you’re doing?

The company is looking forward to having its latest study to be approved by the IRB. Once it gets approved, HVGC will then have the opportunity to share it. Bryan is also looking at the possibilities of putting infrastructure in California to work on further studies about genetics that work best with PTSD. 

“We’ll start with a 60-person study here in California. Then, we’ll advance to a 200-person study. Probably this year, we’ll be moving Helmand Valley Growers into the state of Michigan,” added Bryan. 

Bryan is genuinely looking forward to presenting to Congress the doctor-backed data and evidence that could potentially help veterans with PTSD. 

Bryan expects the whole research process to take about three years.

“Not everyone’s going to be eligible to take part in the studies. Aside from that, they need to go through the types of testing. Above all, not everyone’s going to follow through. There’s human nature, so we need to anticipate that,” Bryan explained. 

Is there anything that you wish more people knew when it comes to veterans and the cannabis industry? 

Bryan wants people to be more open-minded when it comes to cannabis because even up to this day, there’s still some kind of stigma around it. Many people think that cannabis is just a crazy kind of drug that makes people lose their minds. 

“When people hear of cannabis, they immediately think about the devil’s lettuce and all this crazy propaganda. 

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. My life totally changed when I started using medical cannabis at nighttime for sleep. It just slows everything down. It makes me a little bit more comfortable and feel better about myself.”

– Bryan Buckley

Bryan also attested how cannabis has helped him deal with his post-traumatic stress, and he feels confident that other veterans feel the same way. 

He also shared how Chris Long, one of America’s most decorated athletes, had used marijuana during his entire career, primarily to assist in pain management. 

Any podcasts, books, or any resource you’d like to recommend so people could learn more about the veteran community? 

Bryan recommends checking out the Veterans Action Council at www.veteransactioncouncil.com. This group organizes Facebook and Youtube Lives, where veterans from all over the country could meet, share stories, and talk about many things.

Learn more about Helmand Valley Growers Company (HVGC):

Helmand Valley Growers Company Website

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