The Veteran Chronicles: Gotta Grow
I am incredibly proud to bring you another former United States Marine 0311 rifleman (like myself) to this month’s Veteran Chronicles: Tom Rand.
Rand is a Marine Corps veteran, activist, proud father, and husband who was born and raised in Reading, Massachusetts. At the ripe young age of 17, Rand bravely stepped on the yellow footprints at Parris Island, South Carolina, a tradition that all recruits undergo in their transition from civilian to U.S. Marine. He was immediately deployed to Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983, and when he returned home, he was stationed at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, for the duration of his service.
Today, Rand will proudly tell you that he has broken free from the chains of big pharmaceutical companies and the addiction that often comes with those very strong chains—chains that very few veterans can break. Now, Rand proudly pays allegiance to longtime Korean War veteran brothers for leading him down the path toward medicinal cannabis. That’s all it took to open his eyes wide to the healing powers and possibilities of cannabis.
Nearly a decade ago, Rand proudly picked up the nickname “Tom Cape Gardener”—a reference to Rand’s mission to help any and all veterans who wanted the opportunity to grow their own cannabis. Rand reaches out to other local growers and producers in search of donations, such as used equipment, seeds, lights, ballasts, etc., to give to his fellow veterans for free. Rand has never charged a veteran a penny for anything that has been donated. As Rand likes to put it, he does it “all for a handshake,” a motto he has used since the founding of his organization.
Five years ago, Rand realized his mission wasn’t a solo journey. Rand needed assistance from other patriots and veterans, which led to the creation of his organization, Patriots Helping Vets. It initially began as a Facebook group that helped him network with veterans and civilians in his community. Patriots Helping Vets now brings together those who are willing to jump on board with the organization’s mission: “To provide U.S. veterans the equipment, support, and education for horticultural therapy.” Rand and his organization are currently working on becoming a 501(c)(4) nonprofit charity to officially give more veterans nationwide the opportunity to become a self-sustaining, productive grower in their gardens. Ultimately, Rand empowers veterans and teaches them how to cultivate their own herbal medicine.
High Times: How many years passed after your military service before you learned about the healing properties of medical cannabis?
Tom Rand: I learned about the benefits from using cannabis medicinally about 25 years after getting out.
Do you believe that we will see the end of cannabis prohibition in your lifetime?
I would like to see it repealed and allow every citizen the ability to grow [cannabis] and get the true benefit of horticultural therapy. I don’t have much faith in our government to legalize it without it being a shit show.
What organizations or individuals have been a staple in providing donations or volunteering to help foster and grow your mission?
My family has always been my biggest supporters. My wife, Marty, and kids, Josh and Mary, helped make my dream into a mission. Ian Schlesinger from Purpose Genetics has provided thousands of seeds over the years. The Massachusetts cannabis community, without their support I don’t know where my mission would be. The Harvest Cup, New England’s best cannabis cup, and MassCann [and] The Boston Freedom Rally. Anthony B has always been in my corner with supporting our mission, donating hundreds of clones every spring to give out. We had a lot of help along the way unbreakabowl.com, stoneddust.com, and Pot Pockets have helped with giveaways throughout the years. Stem Haverhill has been incredibly supportive. To see where we have come from to having Growers Choice Horticultural lighting, Petratools, MicrobeLifeHydro, ChilLED grow lights, The Soil King, Project Delta 518, Brothers Grimm Seeds’s Rick [Campanella] always goes beyond to show us support. Now the misfits help steer the mission in the right direction. They consist of Shar, Rick, Jeremy, Josh, Mary, Ian, Dari, Joe, Joseph, Ronnie, Elton, Kyle, LaToya, and Dan. It’s amazing to see the passion they have towards our mission.
In one word, please describe the current state of legalization in Massachusetts.
Unfair. The [veterans] that have a true passion of growing medicine have a lot harder of a time, it seems, than the greedy bottom liners. The ones [who] suffered the most from the dark ages have the hardest time to open a grow operation or dispensary. I had the privilege to follow Big Ed and Ed Desousa’s journey of following their dream. After a lot of hurdles and hoops to go through, they created RiverRun Gardens, which produces some of the finest cannabis in the state. Why? Because they have pride and passion for their products.
What year did Massachusetts legalize medical and recreational cannabis?
Medical passed on November 6, 2012, and recreational on December 15, 2016.
Did the state of Massachusetts add any benefits to veterans as part of its legalization programs? Anything such as free medication or free authorizations for vets programs?
None that I’m aware of, but we have always helped veterans with free meds and FECO [full extract cannabis oil], along with passing on donated lights, nutrients, clones, and seeds. We just recently teamed up with Dr. Marion McNabb from The Cannabis Center of Excellence and Gibby’s Garden [who] launched the first Massachusetts Veterans Cannabis Access Research Project. Veterans can enroll and complete a baseline survey and have the opportunity (only 450 qualifying veterans) can receive two 1/8 ounces of flower, two pre-rolls, and a 15 ml of tincture for only $2.
Where do you see Patriots Helping Vets in 2032?
Hopefully we will be legally helping every veteran from every state to grow their own meds. We want to eventually have co-ops across the nation that covers operating expenses [and] then donate the balance of harvest to local veterans [who] can’t grow or afford to buy this wonderful medicine. Become more involved with the lobbying of the right for every veteran to grow their own meds at home. I truly believe that if a state only allows sales but not home grows then that’s just fucking taxation. Community cannabis gardens [should be allowed] across the country with classes and workshops all for free to veterans—they’ve paid too much already to be charged a penny.
What is your all-time favorite strain of cannabis?
Maui Waui, aka Maui Wowie, is by far my most beneficial strain.
Any mentors you would like to praise or give thanks to?
Dr. Howard Irwin for bringing my soil game to a whole new level with using natural local resources. Harold and Keith for showing me what this wonderful plant was really about. They taught me instead of growing a ton.
This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.