I’m hanging out in the grow room at SC Veterans Alliance. The crop is vegetating under the glow of the yellow lamps. The room is filled with the heavy indica strain Kosher Kush. Director Jason Sweatt says, “We’re growing medicine to replace the harsh pharmaceuticals the VA usually hands out to veterans.” Kosher Kush is the ideal strain to treat the most common symptoms found in the veteran community, pain management and insomnia. “Kosher Kush frequently tests at over 30% THC. It’s a natural substitute, and far more safe than the opioid medications prescribed for the same symptoms,” Sweatt adds.
SC Veterans Alliance is a different sort of cannabis business. Twice a month, veterans gather in Santa Cruz and receive donations from SC Veterans Alliance of enough cannabis to hopefully treat their symptoms. It’s about providing an alternative. Says cultivator and veteran Ben, “The VA have one mix of pills for the guys who come back angry and another bunch of pills for the guys who come back sad.” The VA has been slow to recognize the benefits of cannabis therapy in its offering to those who have served. Santa Cruz veterans wouldn’t have access to free medicine if it wasn’t for Jason and SC Veterans Alliance.
As a team leader driving convoys in Iraq, Jason Sweatt was responsible for the well-being of the five men under his command. Although the service and its “groovy haircuts” are behind him, it would seem that his sense of responsibility toward fellow servicemen is stronger than ever. But this is no charity, it’s a working business that simply tries to do as much good as it can with what it has.
But all good work and intentions aside, the real strength of the business is the product itself. Thick, juicy buds are what SC Veterans Alliance is known for in local dispensaries. The business presents an interesting model for the industry: once up and running, and financially viable what can we do to give back? In a profit-motivated industry ‘doing good’ is often a second thought, but at SC Veterans Alliance it’s just how business is done.