Operation 1620: Dispelling Myths and Shining Light on Cannabis for Veterans
Operation 1620 is a group of veterans for cannabis who came together as a result of the stigma against cannabis. The organization’s clever name is the military time for 4:20, and they encourage each other to seek out alternative therapies to traditional and often damaging pharmaceuticals. In this interview, we sat down with Executive Director of Operations Caleb Masoner on Instagram Live to talk about cannabis for veterans, seeking truth, dispelling myths and more!
I for one, am a huge fan of Operation 1620, and CVault feels honored to be able to help support a non-profit such as this. Caleb and I have been in contact for a little while now. For those listening who are not aware, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and also Operation 1620, how it came to be, what you guys do and the basic mission you’re out here to accomplish?
Caleb Masoner: Operation 1620 started as a small Facebook group about three years ago. It was about 10-15 veterans who were just wanting to have a conversation that we couldn’t have with our VA doctors or family and friends because of stigma, lack of knowledge or just restrictions. So we started inviting some of our other veteran friends that we knew used cannabis and as the group started growing, we saw the need to legitimize the organization.
Last year, we got our 501(c)(3), and our mission is to bring awareness, education and support to veterans who use cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. A lot of what we do is just trying to help veterans get resources and know that this is an option for them. We kind of break some of the stigma, dispel some of the myths and misinformation, and help them have the knowledge that we have gained. We get them there a little bit quicker by saying, “hey we’ve tested this product, it works great and we suggest it,” or “don’t use this one, it may do this.”
We want to help veterans move along and use cannabis a little more efficiently.
Have you noticed any lessening of the stigma surrounding cannabis for veterans to help them cope with the myriad of pain, traumas and difficulties they face?
CM: The stigma is still pretty strong even within veteran communities. That kind of lets you know that the disinformation campaign of “just say no” was a really strong one, and it made an impact. There’s still a lot of VA providers who just haven’t got onboard yet.
And then you have people who just want to keep bringing up the same conversations of “this isn’t your grandfather’s weed.” I think those types of arguments take away from a meaningful conversation, so it may be stronger now but maybe I have to use less. We have all different methods of testing, and things have gotten a lot better.
Even within the veteran community, there’s still a lot of stigmas and they’re worried about losing their benefits, or gun rights or being labeled as having a cannabis use disorder. We’re being told in our community — in states where it’s not legal — that some veterans are still getting labeled that in their files. It’s something that veterans are nervous about, so we are here to have that conversation and dispel some of those myths. The stigma is still pretty strong, but we have seen it go down when they come in. They’re like “I’ve found my tribe.”
Can you speak on some of the benefits that cannabis for veterans can provide that you have witnessed or experienced firsthand?
CM: Absolutely. It’s pretty hard to deny the medical benefits of cannabis in the veteran community. I, personally, have come off a lot of pharmaceuticals. They gave me antidepressants, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxieties. All of these have been replaced with medical cannabis. I even had surgery in 2017 — a total decompressive laminectomy with a facet fusion at L5S1 — and I was in a lot of pain before. That surgery helped a lot with that, but cannabis helped reduce even further a lot of the inflammation that was happening in my lower spine, so that has personally helped me.
There are just a lot of veterans for cannabis in our community who speak up about how much it’s helped them with their seizures or it’s helping them treat cancer or something like that. It’s pretty hard to deny that medical benefit.
It helps with PTSD, too, doesn’t it?
CM: 100%. That’s some of the anti-anxiety properties that has gotten me off of those anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants. Some veterans actually use cannabis so they do not dream. THC helps suppress the REM sleep, which is that stage of dreaming, so they use it to help get away from some of those traumatic nightmares they’re having.
How important is it for veterans to be able to have open discussions about natural and alternative ways of healing as opposed to just taking whatever pills the doctors prescribe them?
CM: I think it’s extremely important for them to be able to feel comfortable to bring something up, to inquire about their treatment plans up to and leading to alternatives to pharmaceuticals. For a lot of veterans, it’s a lot more than just getting high and sitting in your basement.
A lot of veterans are using cannabis to become active again. There are groups like Veterans Walk and Talk out of California. They use cannabis, they go out and they hike. They have discussions about cannabis.
Why do you think the government has been so resistant to letting their employees heal themselves with cannabis?
CM: I think that there’s just way too much money to be made for individuals who brush shoulders with higher-ups that are in certain politically-influential positions from police departments to the prison systems to the pharmaceutical industry and even addiction centers. There are a lot of court-mandated recovery programs, and I think that legalization is a threat to their bottom dollar. They don’t want to be losing money, so I think a lot of them oppose that.
How has the response been from vets who you gave CVaults? Are they helping keep their meds fresh?
CM: Absolutely. Every single time we have a giveaway or raffle, everyone jumps in the comments saying, “Hey, I’ve got a CVault and absolutely love it. It keeps my cannabis fresh especially with the Boveda packs.” A lot of them say it’s really handy to lug around and it keeps the smell out, so it’s just very positive feedback. I love it because I use it personally to put my buds in after they get done drying.
What nugs do you have in your CVault at the moment?
CM: I actually just pulled a harvest and I’ve got Granddaddy Purp and Gorilla Glue #4, and I’ve also got Bubba Kush from back in May. I really like indica so I tend to grow those indica strains just because I like it for pain relief and sleep.
What events do you have coming up? What are your plans for 2021 and beyond?
CM: This year, we are still doing some online meetups. October 1st, I’ll be meeting with a lot of veterans from Maitri Medicinals out of Pennsylvania and doing a virtual meetup there. We do little things like that here and there. But in 2021, we hope to get Breakfast Buds going again where people can plug back in. And further down the line, we really want to try to build annual retreats where veterans can come and learn things from cannabis basics to different ways to use cannabis, how to grow cannabis effectively and how to properly process your cannabis.
Where can people find out more information about your organization?
CM: Absolutely. You can go to our website, which is www.op1620.org, or you can find us on social media: facebook.com/op1620 or instagram.com/operation1620.
If you could blaze up with any three people — alive, dead, fictional — who would they be and why?
CM: One, probably Seth Rogan or James Franco just because they’re funny as shit. It seems they’d have me cramping in my stomach just laughing, and I think it would just be a great time.
Two, Duddy B from Dirty Heads. I really connected with the Dirty Heads music, and I love their lyrics because I was going through a rough patch. I started listening to them right when I got into the Illinois medical cannabis program. Just really connected with them.
Three, Carl Sagan. I love having conversations after medicating and with him, I read he was a cannabis user. Ever since I was young, I’ve been into space. I think it would just be a very intriguing conversation to have.
What’s the best way to go about finding cannabis and veteran’s groups by location?
CM: For any veterans that are listening, there are a lot of different veteran groups to plug into in different locations. On our website, we’re trying to build a magazine of groups like that by state. A lot of our social media groups will share each other’s stuff.
Learn More about Operation 1620 and CVault
It was awesome to catch up with Caleb Masoner from Operation 1620 to talk cannabis for veterans. We were beyond disappointed by the IG Live technical difficulties that would not allow us to save the video. But not to worry! We will post the interview audio on our YouTube channel. Stay tuned for the link.
If you’re interested in learning more about Operation 1620 or you have any questions, visit their website. If you have questions about the CVault, use our contact form or hit us up on Instagram or Facebook. If you’re ready to purchase your very own premium cannabis curing and storage solution, explore our products.