DENVER – For former servicemembers who take the hydroponics course at Veterans to Farmers (VTF), it’s natural to think about the marijuana crop that generated more than $247 million in revenue for the state of Colorado, where the sale and use of pot is legal.
Rich Murphy, who directs the program, learned about cannabis after working part-time at a Denver head shop in 2003. The store’s owner wanted someone who wouldn’t be uncomfortable during law enforcement checks, and the five-year Air Force veteran fit the bill.
He began to grow marijuana on his own, and along the way met others who did the same—and were advocating for its legalization. Colorado voters legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, and had already voted for its medical use in 2000.
Eight states and the District of Columbia now have legalized recreational pot, while a total of 29 more allow it for medical purposes.
Murphy’s exposure to the business side of pot was sparked by his stint as a registered caretaker for a family friend, who suffered from multiple sclerosis.
“She wasn’t able to afford the cost, so I grew it for her,” Murphy, who was a caretaker for nine years, explained. “In the end, it was my favorite thing about the plant. You could grow something for someone who was suffering, and you could see the comfort on their face when that was alleviated.”
But well before medical marijuana was part of mainstream policy discussions, Murphy says veterans were aware it made a big difference in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and chronic pain.
Rich Murphy, left, discusses Veterans to Farmers at Rebel Farm in Denver, Colorado. At right, a plague honoring U.S. military veterans at Chatfield Farms in Denver Botanic Gardens. (Christopher Carbone/Fox News)
“As a result of the legalization of medical around the start of the war, many veterans I think felt like they could consider it as an option and began experimenting,” said Murphy. “For the most part, the results are in—and it’s very promising the manner in which [medical marijuana] can affect their lives.”
Although there haven’t been any large-scale studies on the topic, the Drug Enforcement Agency did approve a randomized control trial on the efficacy of marijuana for PTSD, funded by a nearly $2.2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
And yes, veterans who take the course in hydroponics—a common growing method used by cannabis farmers—do ask about the industry.
"You could grow something for someone who was suffering, and you could see the comfort on their face when that was alleviated.”
But since Veterans to Farmers is a non-profit, Murphy said he’s not comfortable teaching a course on growing marijuana. In fact, vets are told at the beginning that the purpose of the program is to learn how to grow food, and not pot.
The former Air Force senior airman is happy to share his knowledge outside the classroom, though, and told Fox News a few vets who have taken the hydroponics course have gone on to work at cannabis dispensaries, lobby for legalization back home or simply grow their own—along with the vegetables, of course.
Murphy recalled a veteran he met who came to Colorado a few years ago and had never considered cannabis for some of his medical issues, but ended up leaving with some cannabidiol and a few edibles.
“To this day, he tells me he can’t wait for his state to pass [legalization] laws, and that it was his goal to not need all the prescriptions he took on a daily basis,” Murphy said. “I have just witnessed too many veterans positively benefiting from it.”