#Everest2022aday: One is One to Many
On August 16, 2021 cannabis activist Eddy Lepp died. Most of the world didn’t notice, he wasn’t that famous outside of the Cannabis community. Eddy Lepp hung out with Jack Herer a lot. Eddy Lepp served his country in Vietnam. Eddy Lepp created one of the largest outdoor state approved medical cannabis gardens ever in Upper Lake, California to provide medicine for fellow veterans. The Feds arrested him for it. Eddy Lepp served 8 and a half years in prison for providing state sanctioned medicine to veterans for PTSD. Eddy Lepp is one of the many outlaws that risked their life and freedom to bring attention to the healing properties of the cannabis plant. After discovering how beneficial cannabis was for his own mental health and well being, Eddy started a new mission to help veterans cope with integration into daily life by using cannabis as medicine and fighting for their right to do so. Eddy enlisted in the Army, but a lot of American soldiers that went to Vietnam did not choose to be there. Human beings were drafted by the government with the threat of going to jail if they didn’t check in. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Vietnam veterans were especially burdened with hardcore symptoms of PTSD, imagine being forced to go to war. Eddy Lepp didn’t run from Vietnam; Eddy Lepp didn’t hide from the Law. Eddy Lepp didn’t give up on himself by taking his own life.
About two weeks before Eddy Lepp’s death, Josh Garrison, CEO of Alpine Dispensary, told me about his plans to sponsor his Army brother Dave Robert’s ascent to the top of Mt. Everest in 2022. Not only is Alpine Dispensary going to sponsor Dave, Josh is joining him on this epic adventure. Climbing Mt. Everest is their new mission and as a part of it, they plan to raise awareness on PTSD and Veteran Suicide. Dave and Josh deal with these issues on a daily basis, either with their own PTSD or those recurring memories of friends they have lost along the way. Josh told me in conversation one day that the hardest thing he used to face when he came home was not having a clearly defined mission. He was not alone even though he felt like it. After returning home a lot of veterans find themselves in this swirling maelstrom of activity and don’t know what to do without the structure provided by the military. When Dave and Josh take to the trail and walk up to Earth’s highest point they will take the memories of the fallen with them.
I’ve known Josh for thirty years. I knew him before he deployed for the first time. I saw him randomly in between deployments here and there. I watched him grow and change over the years. In my eyes, he evolved into some type of James Bond/Ethan Hunt caricature; he’s done a lot for this country that only a few people will ever know. I’ve listened to his stories when he was able to spend a little time around home. Every single time I saw him, I tried to get him to smoke some pot so he could relax a little bit. I could see all the underlying tension and pain. I really knew it could help him with the stress. He always had the excuse of not risking his security clearance handy and then all those other things in the back of his mind that everybody deals with—the social stigmas, fear of being labeled a pothead, fear of becoming an actual pothead, fear of being arrested etc. A little over two years ago, I was overcome with emotion when he called me saying he wanted to open a CBD store and that he wanted my help because he knew I had a lot of experience with the plant. He said that he had tried Cannabis in Washington and it helped tremendously with his PTSD. I was so happy that he wanted to make cannabis a cornerstone in his life. He had found local CBD but the quality was not what he was looking for. He was tired of searching for good stuff and wanted to start Alpine Dispensary to provide high end cannabis products that worked. His plan was to make sure that everyone could get access to the best stuff that we could find. The next morning I put in my two week notice at my job and came on board.
Alpine Dispensary became our mission. When he called me that day I was in a pretty dark place. I had been going through a rough patch and was contemplating leaving the hills again for an adventure or maybe for good. He had no way of knowing how he turned my life around that day, I’ll be forever grateful. Being at Alpine Dispensary and feeling like I’m doing some good for people has meant a lot to me; It’s lifted me up. It’s probably the fifteenth time cannabis has saved my life. Each of us at Alpine Dispensary have stories about how cannabis has worked in our heads to give us peace of mind, a sense of community and pull us from dark places. Together we’ve turned Alpine Dispensary into a lighthouse that delivers quality cannabis products and accurate information to people in need. If you talk to any of our bud tenders at Alpine Dispensary, we’ll tell you how Cannabis has saved our lives on more than one occasion. That is why, when I came across these quotes from Eddy Lepp, I felt it imperative to include them in this blog and hold his story up into the light. Eddy said in an interview I found on theWorldofCannabis.museum website from Canthropology, a podcast by Bobby Black, entitled Reverence for the Reverend:
“I used marijuana for years to keep from killing myself,” confesses Lepp. “I was using cannabis to treat myself, but in the beginning, I didn’t realize that I was medicating because we didn’t have the information.”….”Cannabis was critically important in shaping my recovery and the man that I was going to become,” Lepp attests. “As time passed, I was able to see not only how it healed me physically, but how it allowed me to heal myself mentally and get back in touch with the creator and renew my association with God as I understood him. It allowed me to accept realities and see the truth in who I was and what I’d done, to deal with them in such a way that I grew from it rather than hating and condemning myself.”
–Eddy Lepp 5/14/52 -8/16/21
Suicide is one of the worst possible outcomes of PTSD. The current treatments for PTSD involve a lot of pills that have terrible side effects that make people feel worse than they did in the first place. I know because I have listened from behind the counter at Alpine Dispensary to our veteran customers and to my veteran friends that have been fed pill after pill by the VA. I’ve heard stories time and again from them about how Cannabis has provided a good nights sleep, peace of mind, pain relief and a better quality of life than any of the pills ever did. Some of these folks have been using cannabis for years at the risk of losing their benefits. Because cannabis is so effective at helping them cope with PTSD and other symptoms, to them it is well worth the risk. People like Eddy Lepp took a stand so that the world would know that Cannabis is effective medicine for the treatment of PTSD. It is high time for veterans to have unfettered access to cannabis without fear of losing property and freedom. All people deserve access for our mental health, it should be our choice not the government’s. Eddy Lepp is only one of many people that have used Cannabis to keep from killing themselves, including myself.
I have contemplated suicide. I have had suicidal thoughts. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people confront suicidal thoughts at least once in their lives. For some people though the thought keeps coming back, even years later sometimes, years after the urge had allegedly passed. In moments of loss or pain or in years of uncertainty or in situations where horrors replay daily in the back of your mind, it’s so easy to fall apart, to feel unworthy, to feel hopeless, to simply give up. In those moments, I’ve always had cannabis; like Eddy said, “I didn’t realize I was medicating because we didn’t have the information.” It’s not easy to put yourself back together. Cannabis can help. Cannabis leads to self reflection in times of crisis. Cannabis can pull you back from the edge. Cannabis can make boring tedious tasks fun. No scientific study will ever show that power. How do you quantify and calculate the miracles attributed to this sacred plant?
Dave (Josh’s climbing partner) and I were sitting on the porch one afternoon contemplating that question. It reminded me of another story that I like to tell about how cannabis helped me get through. I shared it with Dave. I think it is relevant to understanding what cannabis does for people suffering from PTSD. Cannabis allows me to turn the “misery” switch off and focus. I’ve learned this skill well by using cannabis to help me accomplish things that I had to do but knew I was going to be miserable doing, like busting up concrete or digging holes in Georgia clay. I would always take a few tokes, suck it up and get the job done, before I knew it, I was on to the next thing as quick as I could be. Eventually, I learned enough to grow beyond board toting and ditch digging, but occasionally I would still find myself in a situation where I had to work my ass off. On one particular day, I found myself in that type of situation with a younger worker and felt the need to pass on a little bit of what I had learned.
I think it was the young man’s first week at the company. We had two full dump truck loads of gravel to spread across a driveway so they could come pour the concrete. The young man was moaning and groaning and it was getting on my last nerve. I certainly didn’t need to hear that all day, shoveling gravel in the heat is miserable enough. I knew that he smoked for fun and I wouldn’t be the first to offer cannabis to him. I went to my truck and grabbed a doobie and walked back to the pile of gravel. I stood beside the wheel barrows and fired it up right there in the front yard.
“Now friend, we’re poor and for us life is gonna be long. We’ve got two choices; we can either be miserable or we can smoke this joint and whistle while we shovel gravel. What’s it gonna be?” I said. He held out his hand and we smoked together then we merrily whistled and shoveled until we were done. Sure we were tired and hurt a little bit and had some blisters, but when the grind gets too hard, simply take another toke and keep on whistling. It can be that easy. Everybody’s life is unique but we all face challenges like this. Cannabis can help you reframe your outlook by changing your perception of a situation from the inside out. I don’t want to oversimplify PTSD and cannabis use, but cannabis is that switch—the only choice to be made is the method that is the best for you.
Dave laughed at the story and opened up to me a little bit about his own battle with PTSD. He uses Cannabis a little here and there and agreed that it’s helped him reframe, but he’s found his ultimate medicine in climbing mountains. Each climbing trip is a personal victory and a step higher on his personal chain of evolution. Climbing Mt. Everest has been a dream of his for a long time and now he gets the chance to live that dream. He’s also discovered that he needs a mission to feel right. Each climb is that next mission and he is honored and thankful to have his old Army buddy Josh walking in step up that big mountain with him. May we all be uplifted by their bravery and spread their story to give encouragement to others.
Josh always comes back and I have a feeling Dave is that type of guy too. I’m not worried about them, they’ve got the same fire that Eddy Lepp had. The tagline #22aday has come to represent Veteran Suicide awareness. Dave and Josh chose the specific marker #Everest2022aday so that we can follow along on their journey through social media. One suicide a day is too many. Josh and Dave have chosen to carry this mantle up to the top of the highest mountain on Earth. It is time for cannabis prohibition to end so that people can get the medicine they need. If people could all freely testify to the benefits of cannabis and share it with each other, I believe we would see a tremendous reduction in the amount of suicides and reduce the symptoms of PTSD. It’s not simply a matter of what the plant does biologically or what can be proven medically, it’s the spiritual pathways of self-discovery, self-reflection and understanding that cannabis opens the door to. It is the people that have kept this plant in circulation because it is integral for their mental and physical health and they feel safe using it. That is a powerful statement, think about it. In spite of all that the oppressors have done to stop cannabis, the will of the people to grow it and share it has not been deterred. The life of Eddy Lepp, the steps of Josh Garrison and Dave Roberts, the actions of every cannabis outlaw that ran drip lines down a mountain in the Humboldt hills or drove a truck load of weed across the country, adequately reflect the determined intentional dedication and diligence necessary to force our system to change. Now is the only time we will ever have, let’s push this. America is in a mental health crisis.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2019 we had an average of 130 suicides a day in America. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, out of 1.38 million attempts 47,511 people were successful at ending their own life. Veterans have much higher rates of suicide than people that did not serve. Considering that only 2 percent of all living Americans have served in the military and 14% of the yearly suicides are veterans, it isn’t hard to see where we should focus first. It is our duty to pick up and fight for those that have fought and given so much of themselves for us.
As Josh and Dave prepare for the climb up Mt. Everest, we can provide support by watching and sharing their social media. Josh is compiling information and producing content on how he has learned to balance his own PTSD with the help of Cannabis and therapy. We all know that PTSD is not limited to veterans, anyone can be traumatized and suffer. Cannabis is definitely worth a try before you decide to check out on life. Find out what products will work best for you by visiting either of our two locations in Helen, GA and talking to one of our budtenders. You can also ask us questions via social media or by calling the store between the hours of 10am and 8pm.
J.C. Dyer, Mojo Coordinator
@mojocoordinator on Instagram and Twitter
Follow Josh @w33ddad and Dave @unbound_overland on Instagram