Native Veteran, a Native American and Veteran owned licensed Cannabis Cultivator in Grove, Oklahoma.
Caleb Neal, owner and head grower at Native Veteran, sat down to talk about cannabis, veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and cultivation methods at local dispensary Joe’s Herb Cabinet in Oklahoma City, OK.
I heard about Native Veteran when I first moved out to Oklahoma City. As a veteran and patient, I was thrilled to find veteran-owned and operated craft cannabis cultivators.
When I found out they gave away penny grams of cannabis to veterans and helped vets get free cannabis cards, I knew I needed to learn more.
Unfortunately, this story is just as somber and gripping as it is refreshing. While it is refreshing to hear about small family veteran and native American-owned craft cannabis, this story involves veteran suicide.
(*Trigger Warning this story covers veteran suicide.)
This is something many consider an unaddressed pandemic as it is estimated about 22 veterans take their lives, daily. More veterans die at the battle here at home than abroad, four times as many.
“Per researchers’ estimates, 30,177 Global War on Terror veterans have died by suicide, compared to 7,057 who have died while deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.” -Military Times, June 21, 2021
Caleb believes his wife, Courtney Lynn Neal took her life mainly due to PTSD, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs policies, inaction, and mistreatment of our nation’s heroes.
Courtney played an integral role at Native Veteran, being involved in everything from helping with cultivation to taxes, sales and marketing. While seeking help from the VA, she experienced mistreatment and judgment due to her cannabis use and work. It is with great respect and sadness that I write about Caleb and Courtney’s family loss. Courtney’s watch ended on May 3rd, 2021. She is an Army Military Police Corps veteran and served during the war in Afghanistan. Courtney served 9 months overseas on a combat tour in Afghanistan where she spent time in Kandahar and Camp Leatherneck. Courtney was passionate about helping other veterans and advocated for an open and honest discussion regarding PTSD.
Q&A with Caleb of Native Veteran:
When was the first time you used cannabis?
I first used cannabis at age 16. I was introduced to the substance recreationally and didn’t understand why so many people thought it was bad. It didn’t affect me negatively compared to alcohol or tobacco. Yet everyone looked down on the plant.
When was the first time you grew cannabis?
In 2015 after I ETS’d. from the Army Military Police Corps.
(ETS’d, or “Expiration Term of Service” is military jargon for: being discharged from the military after service.)
Who taught you how to grow?
I was self-taught via online research. I would like to thank Subcool, TGA Genetics, Mendo Dope, The Rev, and a few others for key knowledge and information I couldn’t grow without. These individuals’ passion, dedication, and wisdom have allowed me to thrive in a garden. It gives me an opportunity to further share the message of clean cannabis and the real cannabis culture.
What’s the most difficult part about growing cannabis in general?
Battling ever-changing regulations, fees, and crony capitalism. Other industries’ major regulations don’t change every year, like cannabis. The fees in this state are reasonable, but to tie into my third point, other states rig fees too high to prevent actual passionate farmers from obtaining the license due to them not being affordable. Lobbying to rig the market in favor of those with deeper pockets only hurts the patients in the long run.
Can you tell us about how you grow and how it’s different than other methods?
We mix organic potting mix, worm castings, compost, dry amendments, trace minerals, and beneficial bacteria/fungi to start things off. We let it “cook” for 2-4 weeks. We then fill 25 Gallon containers and only add water/microbes/aloe vera leaves during the entire cycle. We then hang dry for 7 days ish, hand trim the buds, and glass cure the product in a climate-regulated environment for optimum preservation.
Our methods differ as most growers add some bottled solution during a grow. Most growers also keep weed in plastic bins or bags, further degrading the quality of the material faster than glass jars.
What’s the hardest part about organic living soil versus others?
Getting the confidence to trust in nature’s process and dialing in a soil recipe. Growing with bottles is more tedious and requires more effort every watering by dialing in PPMs, TDS, EC, etc. Just mixing a pile of soil, adding water all cycle, it’s way less demanding.
What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?
Helping people throughout their life access clean, consistent, high-grade medicinal cannabis. I do it so others know what’s possible with minimal inputs and proper curing methods. You don’t need overpriced mids on the shelf. That’s not medication. That’s a rec product at best. You can grow your own, ensuring maximum quality control to the best of your own ability, and produce a higher quality result than most licensed processors. It’s the big secret that big cannabis doesn’t want you to know.
Can you tell us about your experience as a veteran and cannabis patient?
Cannabis saved my life. I cultivate personally as a patient first and foremost, besides my commercial operation. I cultivate for quality and to be able to share that quality with other veterans.
How does the VA treat you?
I get judged in a negative light for being young. I just have many examples of proof showing they are all talk and don’t really care about me as a veteran.
How do you view the VAs current policy on cannabis?
Bullshit. The pharmaceutical industry has a monopoly on the VA’s policies regarding prescriptions, and it’s a big money scheme. People on the planet shouldn’t have to ask permission to grow a natural plant outside. Veterans especially should be allowed to cultivate the plant, utilize the plant, and document anecdotal effects. Anything and everything necessary to stop the veteran suicide epidemic.
What advice do you have for new growers trying to get into the industry?
Have your genetics hunted before you even contemplate getting into the market. If your home grow doesn’t blow everyone you give it to out of the water, you are going to have a harder time in a saturated market.
How about for veterans in general? How can we get involved?
The best way for a veteran to gain employment in the industry is to practice at home and understand the ins and outs of the process before they ever reach out to a cultivator. In this industry, real experience goes a long way.
What advice would you give someone who is trying to enter the industry?
Start growing at home and working on the methods, dry, cure, storage, etc. Get involved in your own home and start growing some plants.
What does proper “legalization” mean to you?
My definition of legalization is full-blown legal. Unfortunately, the industry’s definition seems to take legalization for “acceptable as long as we control it and you pay exuberant taxes for a subpar product.”
Explain why education is so important in cannabis.
It is important for the patients to know what they are smoking and the process used before it ended up in the end-users hands. Too many brands sell ‘hype’ and do not focus on quality, which leads to potentially harmful chemicals being used in the cultivation process—all for money, instead of helping others.
Share your thoughts on something important to you:
Veteran PTSD and Suicide Awareness. I lost my wife to PTSD May 3rd, 2021. There is no more important goal to me than reaching as many veterans as possible, to keep them alive, and provide assistance with cannabis. This plant saved my life, and it can do the same for others. No outdated, racist, and unjust laws should ever prevent that.
What got you started?
Having difficulties adjusting after getting out of the military. Cannabis seemed to ease the stress, while allowing me to focus in a clear and level headed headspace.
What keeps you going?
Helping veterans and others through cannabis. The potential to breed new strains and make life easier for so many people is a huge driver.
Where can folks buy your flower?
Afton,OK: Higher Health
Tulsa, OK: Stone Age Meds
OKC, OK: Joes Herb Cabinet, Bloom Cannabis, and Sage Wellness
How can readers support you?
Go to their local dispensaries and ask their shop to carry our flower or apparel.
How can readers contact you?
Native Veteran Facebook
Thank you for reading about Caleb and Courtney’s story.
Please check on a veteran today and support your local growers!
Read More about Native Veteran, Caleb, and Oklahoma Cannabis:
Cannabis cultivation booming in Delaware County, with boutique grower offering peeks inside medical marijuana operation
Battle Brothers Foundation
Veterans Crisis Line:
Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
White House VA Hotline: 1-855-948-2311.