soldiers in a war

Our Story

2019

Louisiana Congressional Testimony

Gary and Brianna Hardy testify before Louisiana State Congress in support of medical cannabis treatment in Louisiana.

VAHA URL

Source URL

May 2019

Inhalation Delivery Allowed in Louisiana

Louisiana unanimously passes legislation to allow medical cannabis inhalation delivery systems.

VAHA URL

Source URL

Additional Resource URL(s)

June 2019

Advocacy Begins

Gary Hess becomes a public advocate for medical cannabis and is invited to present to a panel at Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week 2020.

Nov 2019

Pennington Biomedical Presentation

Gary Hess is invited to speak on the efficacy of medical cannabis to the healthcare community at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Facility.

Nov 2019
2020
Jan 2020

Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week

Gary Hess speaks at Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week about the benefits of medical cannabis.

Source URL

March 2020

VAHA Begins

VAHA was founded to advocate for veterans’ right to access life-saving treatment in the form of medical cannabis.

May 2020

Partnership with Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI)

VAHA teamed up with Sue Sisley of SRI to file legislation against the United Stated Attorney General and Drug Enforcement Agency to remove cannabis as a Schedule 1 narcotic.

VAHA URL

Source URL

Nov 2020

Addressing the HR community

VAHA presents to the professional human resources community in Louisiana about the medical benefits of cannabis and how it can be best integrated as a daily medicine to improve worker satisfaction and enhance performance.

Nov 2020

Litigation Filed

The lawsuit (supported by VAHA) was filed by SRI against the United Stated Attorney General and Drug Enforcement Agency with the goal of removing cannabis form the list of Schedule 1 Narcotics.

VAHA URL

Source URL

Dec 2020

TeleLeaf founded

TeleLeaf launches providing a straightforward online process whereby patients in need of treatment through medical cannabis can connect with qualified physicians to obtain their medical marijuana card.

Source URL

2021
Feb 2021

Dynamic Growth Solutions founded

DGS was created to address the increasing need for innovative agricultural solutions for the cannabis growing industry.

Source URL

March 2021

VAHA presents to the Government of Panama

VAHA representatives, Brianna Hardy and Peter Prevot, present to government of Panama on the medical efficacy of cannabis and the economic benefits the cannabis industry brings.

March 25, 2021

First Trauma Presentation

VAHA holds its first public presentation on the benefits of cannabis and how it can be used to facilitate recovery, stability, and post-traumatic growth.

Source URL

May 25, 2021

Metered-dose inhaler released in Louisiana

VAHA partners with PAX and Ilera Holistic to launch the first metered-dose inhalation device available in Louisiana.

Source URL

Additional Resource URL(s)

June 21, 2021

Federal Court Live Streamed

Hearing results in allowing other qualified cultivators to grow and supply research institutions with cannabis products (ending the NIDA monopoly which prohibited cannabis research).

Source URL

June 29, 2021

VAHA and SRI Continued Partnership

VAHA supports SRIs phase two clinical trials focusing specifically on cannabis’ effects on veterans for chronic pain and PTSD.

VAHA URL

Source URL

July 20
July 22
2021

North Carolina Senate Committee Approves Legalization Bill

The proposal allows patients to access cannabis if they have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition.

VAHA URL

Source URL

Additional Resource URL(s)

Aug 2021

VAHA Partners with Curaleaf

VAHA and Curaleaf, the worlds largest cannabis company, agree to partnership.

Aug 30, 2021

National Cannabis Roundtable

VAHA Accepts Invitation to Sit on National Cannabis Roundtable Advisory Board.

Source URL

Oct 4
Oct 6
2021

Safe Banking Senate Meeting

VAHA meets with Senate Committee Members about need for safe banking in the cannabis industry. This would allow small businesses access to economic opportunities provided by the cannabis industry.

Gary Hess - Veterans Push for Medical Marijuana in Conservative South
Nov 22, 2021

Veterans Push for Medical Marijuana in Conservative South

VAHA URL

Garry Hess
Dec 01, 2021

New Veterans Group to Educate Congress on NDAA SAFE Banking Act Inclusion Would Be a Game Changer for Veterans

VAHA URL

Source URL

2022
Jan 19, 2022

VAHA To Organize SC Vets Medical Freedom at the heart of SCCC Act

VAHA URL

Garry Hess Interview
Jan 25, 2022

VAHA Urges SC Senate to Support Medical Freedom at the heart of SCCCA

VAHA URL

Garry Hess Press Conference
Feb 01, 2022

VAHA-SC rallies Vets for Compassionate Care Act Medical cannabis, medical freedom at the heart of the debate

VAHA URL

Garry Hess
Feb 11, 2022

South Carolina Should Embrace Compassionate Care For Veterans

VAHA URL

Mick And Eric
Feb 17, 2022

VAHA Announces Board Appointments Two Decorated Combat Vets join to boost Cannabis Awareness, Empowerment, Reform

VAHA URL

2023

VAHA Executive Director Gary Hess was invited to speak at a closed-door breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by Ohio Rep.

Dave Joyce for newly elected Republican representatives. The event takes place every two years, covering various topics of interest. This year's focus was on cannabis and the role the federal government can play in its regulation and policy.

Hess emphasized “Although research is an incredibly important issue, the focus needs to remain on access, especially for the veteran community. It is abundantly clear that the pharmaceutical strategies being employed to treat our conditions are not working. Veterans in every state need real, viable options to heal. These options should be open for discussion and available to us through our local VA.”

Mar 30, 2023

Cannabis industry titans and vaha collaborate to drive the safe banking act forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Between June 12th and 15th, cannabis industry leaders, including Cresco Labs, Curaleaf, the National Cannabis Roundtable, and the U.S. Cannabis Council, along with the Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives (VAHA), converged in a joint effort to urge congress members for the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act this legislative session

Among the attendees were Charlie Bachtell, Founder and CEO of Cresco Labs; Gary Hess, Executive Director of VAHA; Matt Darin, CEO of Curaleaf; and Toi Hutchinson, President and CEO of Marijuana Policy Project, alongside other significant figures from the cannabis industry and advocacy groups.

This united advocacy initiative garnered the attention and support of numerous congressional members such as Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), and Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH), along with 17 other members of Congress.

VAHA was a standout contributor in this collective effort, using its powerful voice to convey the dire need for SAFE Banking Act directly to lawmakers. Through personal conversations with Representatives and Senators from both sides of the aisle, VAHA painted a vivid picture of the pressing issues faced by the cannabis industry and the transformative potential of the SAFE Banking Act.

The core discussions were focused on extending the current definition of financial institutions that governs the hemp industry to the regulated cannabis market, thus providing a safe harbor and fostering an environment of economic fairness.

The SAFE Banking Act is being hailed as a public safety bill with the intent to quell the burgeoning $75 billion illicit cannabis market, thereby leveling the playing field against foreign competitors.

Gary Hess, the Executive Director of VAHA, gave an impassioned explanation of the SAFE Banking Act's far-reaching implications for the Veteran community:

"As a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, we use medical cannabis to save lives and improve the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of veterans and trauma survivors. However, we are hindered in our efforts to scale our business and help more veterans due to a lack of access to capital and financial resources available to other industries. By providing access to financial institutions and capital markets, VAHA and its affiliates can effectively combat the suicide and opioid epidemic plaguing the Veteran and Trauma communities."

In conclusion, with the SAFE Banking Act of 2023, Congress must afford domestic cannabis companies the same access to the regulated financial institutions and services enjoyed by other domestic industries, thus fostering equitable growth, creating jobs, and driving economic development across the U.S.

Jun 26, 2023
cannabis-industry-titans-and-vaha-collaborate

Modern Health Alliance Holds Inaugural Meeting, Advocating for Revolutionary Approaches to Medicine with Psilocybin and Cannabis

Washington, D.C., September 14, 2023 – The Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives had the honor of speaking at the first-ever meeting of the Modern Health Alliance (MHA) this past week. The meeting focused on advocating for federal policies that promote the development and usage of safe and effective medicines derived from psilocybin and cannabis.

About the Modern Health Alliance

MHA aims to be at the forefront of legislative, regulatory, and policy development, encouraging research and education on alternative medicines like psilocybin and cannabis. Their mission is to address the unmet medical and mental health needs by promoting evidence-based therapies. By engaging researchers, business leaders, patients, and policymakers, MHA aims to push forward the frontiers of medical research for the benefit of society.

The Urgent Need for New Approaches to Medicine

"The medical field is at an exciting crossroads," said Gary Hess, Executive Director of the Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives. "The data show these compounds can be safe, well-tolerated, and highly effective when used in the right set and setting. It's time we looked past the stigma and considered the science."

Mental Health Crisis in America

"As a nation, we are facing a mental health crisis that can no longer be ignored," Hess emphasized. "The alarming rise in suicide rates and opioid addiction clearly indicates that our current approach is insufficient. We need urgent action and innovative therapies now more than ever."

Regulatory Pathways

Recent ballots in states like Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Colorado, and California are setting legislative precedent for the medical use of psilocybin. The challenge lies in ensuring these therapies are brought to market in a regulated, responsible manner. "Through proper channels and rigorous clinical trials, we can revolutionize how we treat a range of mental and physical conditions," added Hess.

Notable Attendees

The event featured an esteemed panel, including Ed Perlmutter, Partner at Holland & Knight and Former U.S. Rep. (D-Colo.), Dr. Anna Yusim, Director of the Yale School of Medicine Spirituality & Mental Health Center, and other leading experts from the fields of law, healthcare, and policy.

Moving Forward

As MHA kicks off its advocacy efforts, it promises to be a vanguard in promoting safe, regulated, and effective alternative therapies. Their initial meeting serves as a call to action for society to recognize the need for a holistic approach to medicine that marries scientific rigor with human well-being.

Sep 14, 2023

VAHA and Ukraine: Uniting for Veteran Mental Wellness

Houston, TX – In a significant international collaboration, Gary Hess, the Executive Director of the Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives (VAHA), was honored to brief the Ukrainian Ministry of Veterans Affairs delegation on pioneering mental health therapies. This groundbreaking event, in association with 'Combined Arms', a renowned non-profit, focused on the integration of medical cannabis and psychedelic-assisted therapies into mental health programs for Ukrainian veterans and civilians amid an ongoing conflict.

"Amidst the turmoil, our Ukrainian friends endure daily; there is a ray of hope through the adoption of ancestral medicines and contemporary therapeutic practices," stated Hess. "The symbiosis of psychedelic-assisted therapies with proven methods like cognitive behavior therapy and EMDR presents a formidable force against the shadows of treatment-resistant conditions."

The delegation, including Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Svitlana Vasylivna Kashenets and other esteemed members, we explored the science and soul of plant-based medicines. Discussions centered on medical cannabis, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ibogaine, and 5-MEO-DMT – all under the umbrella of ancestral medicines.

"The profound exhaustion and moral injury afflicting our Ukrainian counterparts are palpable," Hess observed. "What we're proposing here could be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in treating conditions like PTSD, substance abuse, moral injury, and suicide; which traditional modalities struggle to address."

VAHA's presentation meticulously explained the mechanisms of action for these therapies, emphasizing their potential to enhance neuroplasticity, disrupt detrimental patterns, open critical learning periods, reprogram the default mode network, and ultimately lead to deep healing and trauma release.

"Our aim is clear – to offer solace and strength through science-backed, holistic approaches," Hess explained. "The outcomes speak for themselves: profound healing, reduction in pharmaceutical reliance, and a rekindled connection with the self."

As Ukraine faces unprecedented challenges, the integration of psychedelic-assisted therapies offers a beacon of hope. The heartfelt Q&A session reflected a shared commitment to adopting these modalities for Ukrainian defenders, paving the way for a future where mental well-being is within reach.

"In the face of adversity, we stand united," Hess concluded. "Together, we can redefine the landscape of mental health and usher in an era of recovery and resilience for those who have sacrificed so much."

Nov 13, 2023
2024
March 11, 2024

Veterans Mental Health Leadership Coalition (VMHLC) Urges Congress to Support and Pass the Breakthrough Therapies Act

Washington, D.C. – In a pivotal series of meetings held from March 11th to 14th, the Veterans Mental Health Leadership Coalition (VMHLC), engaged with 65 members of Congress to advocate for the urgent passage of the Breakthrough Therapies Act. This legislation is a cornerstone in the fight against the escalating mental health crisis and its resultant increase in suicide rates and pharmaceutical overdoses within the veteran community.

The past two decades have seen the loss of over 200,000 veterans to suicide and pharmaceutical overdoses, a stark contrast to the 7,000 service members lost in combat operations over that same period. This grave statistic underscores the critical need for innovative and effective treatment options that address the root causes of mental health issues stemming from trauma.

The Breakthrough Therapies Act (H.R. 1393/S. 689) is a bipartisan, bicameral bill sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), along with Congresswomen Madeleine Dean (D-PA) and Nancy Mace (R-SC). This bill would automatically reschedule any Schedule I drug to Schedule II on an expedited timeline if it is an active ingredient of a drug that receives FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation or Expanded Access approval.

This bill would reduce barriers to research and enable compassionate medical use of Breakthrough Therapies like MDMA and psilocybin, including under the bipartisan Right to Try law. The Breakthrough Therapies Act does not add costs to taxpayers and does not change criminal penalties for misuse or diversion of these substances. It's an essential step to accelerate access to potentially life-saving treatments, particularly for veterans with complex comorbidities, who often don't qualify for clinical trials in the United States. Put simply: our nation's heroes should not be forced to travel abroad to save their lives.

Gary Hess, Executive Director of VAHA, member of the VMHLC, and Chair of the Moral Compass Federation, stated, "Our commitment to our veterans is unwavering. The Breakthrough Therapies Act is not just legislation; it's a lifeline for those who have borne the battle. Our advocacy efforts aim to ensure that this lifeline is strengthened and extended."

Lieutenant General Martin R. Steele, US Marine Corps (Retired) and founder of VMHLC, directly addressed the urgency of this issue, stating, "Responsibly ushering in this new paradigm of mental health care is a national imperative. Congress can and should help to achieve it by swiftly passing the Breakthrough Therapies Act before year-end. We hope to see overwhelming bipartisan support for this potentially life-saving legislation."

Adam Marr, an Army Apache Helicopter Pilot and Director of Operations for VMHLC, stated "Organizations like VAHA along with our +45 partner organizations have been carrying the burden of this work for far too long, it’s time for Congress to reduce these impractical regulatory barriers to lifesaving Breakthrough Therapies already approved by the FDA."

The VMHLC's meetings with Congress members underscore the coalition's position that breakthrough therapies like MDMA and psilocybin offer a new path forward for mental health care, especially for veterans who have not found relief through existing treatments. The Act's passage would mark a significant advancement in addressing the mental health crisis among veterans by enabling access to transformative, evidence-based therapies.

The Veterans Mental Health Leadership Coalition calls on Congress to take immediate action to pass the Breakthrough Therapies Act. It is a critical step toward providing our nation's heroes with the comprehensive and effective care they deserve.

The Veteran Mental Health Leadership Coalition (“VMHLC”) is a national member-based Veterans organization that brings together the leadership of various Veteran Service Organizations, researchers, and veteran mental health providers with expertise in psychedelic medicine to exchange ideas and advocate for increased veteran-focused research funding and safe, affordable access to psychedelic therapies for Veterans and their family members. LtGen Steele serves as president of the VMHLC.