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Cannabis and Hemp for Veterans

As the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) moves forward with Florida’s newly established hemp program and with improving access to medical cannabis for Floridians, Commissioner Nikki Fried believes that Florida veterans should have fair access to these medications and that veterans should be an integral part in growing the Florida cannabis and hemp industries. General Information on the Florida hemp program and medical cannabis can be found below.

Additionally, FDACS encourages veterans interested in the Florida cannabis and hemp industries to engage with the following Florida-based organizations:

The Florida Hemp Association (FHA) provides information on the state and federal regulatory framework; industry landscape; and hemp cultivation, sales and processing business opportunities in Florida. FHA is dedicated to providing interested growers, businesses and individuals with information about hemp licensing requirements, program compliance, market dynamics and new business opportunities.

The mission of the Florida Hemp Council (FLHC) is to create an ecosystem aimed at growing the Florida hemp industry as a leader in the production of hemp and hemp products. FLHC promotes sound development for the emerging hemp industry and connects its members with programs that enhance their professional growth.

The Florida Medical Cannabis Conference and Exhibition (FMCCE) is a networking and educational forum that covers the subject of medical cannabis. FMCCE brings together medical professionals, attorneys, finance representatives, operations and communications experts, entrepreneurs and consumers to collaborate on medical cannabis issues.

The Hemp Industries Association of Florida (HIAF) is a nonprofit trade association that is dedicated to supporting farmers and the commercialization of hemp. HIAF provides education, training and a reliable network of industry partners to make Florida the national leader in the hemp industry.

The Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida (MMBAFL) works to protect and promote rational and compassionate approaches to Florida’s emerging medical marijuana regulatory framework, serve as a business resource for policymakers, grow business opportunities for the medical marijuana industry, and protect the rights of medical marijuana patients and their families.

Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance restarts free medical marijuana for veterans

Seth Smith, communications director for Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, said the company has a new location, the Santa Cruz Veterans Memorial Building, for its ‘compassionate use’ program, providing free medicinal cannabis to veterans in need. The program will be 5-6 p.m. on the first Monday of the month. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Veterans connect at the Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building where the Veterans Allaince are restarting their ‘compassionate use’ program, giving away free medical cannabis to vets in need. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ >> New state law requiring hefty taxes on cannabis and tracking from seed to sale quashed giveaways around the state for patients under the 1996 Compassionate Use Act, but one compassionate use program has resurfaced in Santa Cruz.

This month, the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance restarted its program to provide medical marijuana to military veterans at a new location, the Santa Cruz Veterans Memorial Building, 846 Front St.

About 85 people came, filling the hall for an hour, learning about a new then heading to the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance dispensary to pick up their product.

“It’s a great location,” said James San Miguel, 65, a Vietnam veteran who left in a wheelchair. “Finally the veterans get to use the veterans hall.”

Seth Smith, 36, a Navy veteran who is communications director for the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, concurred.

“It feels like a homecoming,” he said. “We should have been here all along.”

The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, founded by veterans Aaron Newsom and Jason Sweatt, grows cannabis and funds the giveaway out of sales to cannabis dispensaries. They view medical marijuana as a better alternative than addictive opioids that are typically are prescribed for pain.

Both Newsom and Sweatt found relief from post-traumatic stress disorder via medical marijuana despite a 1937 federal law halting scientific research on cannabis and the 1971 decision during the Nixon Administration to classify marijuana as a dangerous drug in the same category asLSD and heroin.

In 2016, more than 100 veterans took advantage when the Veterans Alliance offered medical marijuana at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 7263 in Live Oak and then at the Live Oak Grange.

That was before California voters approved Proposition 64 in November 2016 allowing adult use of cannabis, triggering new licensing requirements and a 15 percent state excise tax and county environmental review culminating in new regulations in May.

One unexpected outcome was the discovery that the initiative did not specifically exempt “compassionate care” programs from paying the excise and cultivation taxes on products that brought in no revenue.

“These donation-based programs cannot afford the new taxes attached to cannabis and most have been forced to close their doors,” according to State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who introduced SB 829 in April to rectify the situation.

The bill is supported by the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.

It was passed in May by the State Senate, with State Sen. Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, and State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, in favor, then was passed by three Assembly committees.

Last week, the bill was sent to the Appropriations Committee, which reviews fiscal bills.

The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana a collective with a 25-year history, is among those adjusting to the new regulatory landscape. It is currently closed but has found a new home and expects to reopen in August, according to its website.

Smith said the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, which has 15 employees, plans to co-locate its manufacturing facility at 274 Kearney St., Watsonville, with the indoor cultivation operation.

“It’s a larger facility designed from scratch,” he said.

The advantage, he said, is Watsonville taxes are based on square footage, and thus are less than those charged by Santa Cruz County.

He expected testing under the new law to take place this month, noting only 30 labs are certified, including SC Labs in Santa Cruz.

“The price for testing skyrocketed,” he said.

That is affecting the price and availability of medical cannabis.

“We were sold out of product for three months,” Smith said. “We have orders… We can’t grow it fast enough.”

Veterans and Agriculture in Washington State

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) exists to support the state's agricultural community and promote consumer and environmental protection.

  • Agriculture is proving to be a good fit for those with the experience and skills gained in military service.
  • The average age of our state's farmers is almost 59. To maintain our ag industry, we need a new generation ready to step in.

Veterans Careers in Agriculture: A Resource Guide


General farming support
Many programs, organizations and resources can guide and support veterans getting started in farming – including marketing, branding, and other advice for those beginning or expanding their business.

Financial support
Check out several sources of grants and loans for farmers and ranchers.

Referring to the therapeutic benefits of nature and the outdoors, ecotherapy can help veterans who are experiencing depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, or who are transitioning back to their communities.

From state colleges and universities to farm-focused organizations, veterans can learn, build and practice the skills necessary for a career in agriculture.