I remember it like it was yesterday. I was post surgical from a complete knee reconstruction, only the damage was so severe they had to place in two titanium screws and a pin to hold the joint together. I remember the morphine, the sixteen inch scar filled with staples and the first prescription for 90 Percocet that my doctor prescribed. Along with a muscle relaxer by the name of Soma, he gave me 120 of those and sent me home with a handshake and a smile and more prescriptions that I had ever seen in my life.

I never knew what they could do to me, I knew they stopped the pain, but there was that feeling of euphoria I got when I took those pills, in just the right combination. They threw Xanax into the mix about six months later. Skip ahead ten years, and there I was, at the door of the Veteran’s Hospital, checking myself into rehab for Opiate and Benzodiazepine addiction. Those pills did more than help the pain, they had taken over my life.

The philosophy of the VA, much like many other programs tell you to “give it up to a higher power”,” Let go and let God”, “Take it one day at a time.” But one requirement was absolute, you didn’t use drugs no matter what, and you counted the days since your last pill, drug or drink. As a veteran of Naval Special Warfare, I dove into the twelve steps like my life depended on it. However, there was some nights where the pain was so severe, that I wanted to slam my head against a wall, hard enough to knock me out because I would go days without sleep. I tried the twelve steps and did everything the “program” asked of me. Even though I could barely walk a flight of stairs.

For five straight years of my life, 1825 days, I suffered through pain, anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks. I was on four different psychiatric medications, I’d gained sixty pounds, and it sounded like I was walking on “bubble wrap” when I would get out of bed. I tried exercise, it just made the pain worse. Physical Therapy made it even worse. And as long as none of those pills were narcotic, the VA kept sending me a fresh supply every month.

I had used marijuana recreationally, far before it was legal, I had a grow of about 20 plants when I was 17, and I never, not once, knew the medical benefits. Using marijuana in recovery, meant failure in my circles. Then it happened. I was at a friends house on vacation and for the first time in five years, my pain went away. I smoked three hits of a hybrid strain of Indica and Sativa called “Dairy Queen”. It was like every muscle in my body relaxed at once from all those years of pain and stiffness. I was able to stand without assistance, and on day 1826 of continued sobriety, it was as if I witnessed a miracle. I could think clearly, focus and was finally, pain free. I also realized that if you are “counting the days”, it’s not lasting change and focus remains on the problem and not the solution. You shouldn’t have to hate yourself based on the opinion of a program and live in constant pain, while you count each second.

I did my research, as I also worked in the recovery field as an interventionist and clinical coordinator, and I went to visit a MMJ Clinic to meet a board certified Physician, a graduate from the University of Southern California, and he gave me my first certification. I went from five years of agony, to finally being able to exercise again, I lost that 60 pounds and I quit taking every one of those psychiatric Meds. I was given medicinal marijuana for PTSD, Chronic Pain and Anxiety disorder. I felt like a different person. So I started my first grow, just a couple of plants for medicinal use and I grew two of the most beautiful plants of Blue Dream I had ever seen. I watered them, I talked to them, I trimmed them and the end result ended with my becoming involved in a 95 plant grow one year later.

But it did come at a price I would say. My former wife was a Community Service officer with the local police department, and divorced me six months after I planted my first seed. I went from being a doting, loving husband and father, to a criminal that she stated in the divorce papers, that said, “She couldn’t be associated with a criminal enterprise”, even though it was legal, it was not legal in “her town” and that was the last time I saw her or my step son again.

I made a decision, that day I received the final papers that I was going to grow this medicine and share it with as many people as possible. I made edibles from keef, extracted oils, and witnessed my father in law speak for the the first time in three years, due to stage four Parkinson’s. He was able to hold a conversation with his wife, for the first time since the Parkinson’s took it away. I fed him half of a 250mg, chocolate chip cookie, and I once again witnessed the miracle of what this plant can do.

Last November, after expanding into the California delivery and sales arena, I visited North Dakota, and started researching the recently passed law that legalized Medicinal Marijuana in a state, where having as little as a gram on your person, meant that you were arrested that charged with a misdemeanor. March 21st of this year, I relocated to this great state and have been working with local developers, politicians and even tribal members of the local Sioux nation to make the dream of opening the first Veteran owned and operated, medicinal grow and

Compassionate Care Center in North Dakota. Sister Havana’s is slated for licensure late this summer and a time line working alongside American Cannabis Company to open January 1st, 2018. Providing the highest quality Medicinal Cannabis in the state. Providing an alternative to narcotics and to help with an opioid epidemic that has swept the state to the point to where they give Narcan Nasal Spray with Opiate prescriptions to stop overdose. A methamphetamine problem that fills the jails and no alternative medicine available to help fight these addictions. We plan to assist veterans and patients with chronic pain, PTSD and a litany of other mental health and physical issues that are currently treated with “just another pill”. We can make this a movement, if we band together and do it right.

Our team at Sister Havana’s, each one a Veteran of military service, have a plan to run it, grow it and distribute it with no more public attention drawn to it than an armored truck. A turn-key, solar-powered, fully contained Grow facility, with a bakery, oil extraction kitchen, and care center. All under one banner, in a single zoned location. A Grow Facility zoned in industrial areas, with attached Care Centers, zoned right next door to a coffee house or a convenience store in upscale neighborhoods and commercial areas, in some cases re-opening empty storefronts and recovering local economy.

Security is a number one priority. With Veterans at the helm, this facility will be fully outfitted the latest technology in security and monitoring equipment with direct contact to local police and fire stations. A 24 Hour on site Security Team as well as an Armored Transport Team for moving medical cannabis to other Compassionate Care Centers throughout the state.

All this attention to detail even before the medication makes it to the Compassionate Care Center where it is then turned over in the “chain of custody” to a fully vetted and trained sales staff to ensure proper dosing per patient under doctor’s instruction. All protected in a cloud based inventory system that won’t allow sales to “over medicated” patients by tracking how much has been purchased every thirty days and holding limits to state standards. No matter which location in the state they try to purchase it.

Sister Havana’s, owned by a Veteran, employing veterans and serving the public good by controlling the operation with military like precision. We fully believe this product should be treated with the same care and consideration of Controlled Narcotics, with a “chain of custody” from seedling to final sale.

Our primary focus is the public good, and making sure medicine is treated like medicine, kept away from children and schools and most importantly held to the same discretion the FDA applies to Prescription Narcotic Production and distribution.

This dream can and is becoming a reality, and do the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in this fine State of North Dakota because I believe that I “only pass this way but once.” Now is the time for action, and the plan is already in place.