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- Website: twenty22many-olympia.org
Twenty22Many — Olympia, WA
Since its inception in 2014 Twenty22Many has been employing grassroots tactics to combat the reality of veteran suicide – work that the volunteers at Twenty22Many take very seriously. In 2016 the group attained its non-profit status, and still continues to bring awareness to an often misunderstood and stigmatized crisis that plagues our nation from its home base in Olympia, Washington. As a 501(C)3 nonprofit the team at Twenty22Many strives to bring awareness to suicide prevention, PTSD and the fact that many veterans are seeking safe and legal access to alternative medicine outside of pharmaceuticals. They are an inclusive group of individuals that accept all veterans seeking to end veteran suicide regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race or spirituality.
The organization’s president and founder Patrick Seifert graced us with his presence at the DOPE headquarters in Seattle where we talked about the organization’s mission and goals for the future. He shared with us the team’s non-traditional approach to healing, harm reduction and why it’s crucial to build a community around veteran suicide awareness. DOPE Magazine wants to extend our gratitude and continue to celebrate the mission of the non-profit and lives that are positively affected by the many volunteers of the organization. Seifert is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1992-1995 while stationed in Hawaii and as he says, “I’m a rifleman, if you will.” Oh, and he’s a husband and father of three wonderful kids!
DOPE Magazine: So many veterans say that cannabis has helped them with not only PTSD by a myriad of other medical issues: chronic pain, sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression. What has cannabis done specifically for you? How do you use it in your day-to-day treatment for the medical issues that you are suffering from?
Patrick Seifert: I do have PTSD, but I went into the Marine Corps with PTSD. At a very young age, I had PTSD brought into my life through sexual abuse, and I’ve lived with it my whole life. I have used cannabis since the fifth grade off and on (obviously not at the time knowing that it was a medicine in the way I know it now). Today it really has helped me fight my demons, my social anxiety. I don’t smoke nearly as much as my counterparts, but I don’t need to. Cannabis affects every human being differently and I get where I need to be very simply. Cannabis has been a savior in my life. I have an eight-year-old, a 13-year-old, and a 19-year-old, and all of them refer to my cannabis as dad’s medicine. There are no bad words around my home when we’re talking about cannabis. It is a natural healing remedy in our home, and that’s how our children will be brought up, and hopefully other people’s children will be brought up the same way. Part of the big problem that we have right now is that marijuana or cannabis is thought to be the “Bogeyman.”
How did Twenty22Many come to life? Can you tell us a bit about the early days?
First of all, Twenty22Many is the epitome of a grassroots, all-volunteer organization. We survive off of donations, it was born out of medical cannabis safe access. They weren’t called dispensaries in Washington state, they were called safe access points, and we had ours from 2011 until everybody was ordered to shut down in 2016. That’s where Twenty22Many was born. I opened Rainier Express in Olympia with every intention of just making money, and that’s when I became a believer — seeing hundreds and then thousands of veterans coming through our doors. Randy [Madden] came through my door. It took months for him even to get eye contact with me and for me to build that trust with that relationship, but slowly and surely, I did. Other veterans came to me and we were like “Man, we’re seeing what this is doing for us, we got to get the word of there. What could we do to get the word out there?” And the first thing that we noticed was that PTSD wasn’t on the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use in Washington state. That was our first mission.
What did it take to get PTSD on the list of qualifying conditions in Washington state for MMJ use?
We immediately went up to the capital, we wore our red armbands, we had buttons, we held up our Twenty22Many signs. Anybody who has fought for legislation knows that when you come to [the capital] with new legislation you’re looking at a three to five year [process] and that’s great if that happens. The very first year we came to them with the PTSD bill that was born out of Senator Colwell’s office — if you remember her, she wrote the very first medical cannabis bill the government vetoed. That came out of her office, we hand-delivered that bill with Adam Cooper, her legislative assistant, to Senator Hobbs down on the floor, and within 48 hours he said he would champion that bill.
That bill came out of the Senate without one conflicting “no” vote and is now law. So out of the gate, we were successful, and now veterans can safely use cannabis for PTSD in Washington state without fear of losing their benefits.
What has Twenty22Many been up to lately? What role has the organization played in moving national cannabis legalization efforts forward?
We’re kind of up to a lot, considering how small we are. We only have one chapter and it’s in Olympia. We’ve been approached by seven or eight other states, but we don’t want to go into another state until we have this fully functional and running like a fine-tuned machine, and it’s not [there yet].
Being an all-volunteer organization, you can only imagine the struggles that we go through. Once you find those good volunteers there is an old saying “There’s nothing like the heart of a volunteer,” and I truly believe that. Our success in our organization depends on the volunteers we have. We’ll live or die by the volunteers, and the ones that we have now are just amazing. Any day that you come by Twenty22Many down in Olympia [we have an event to attend]. On Wednesdays we offer yoga; on Thursdays we offer kickboxing, we work with BJJ Kickboxing & MMA in Olympia; Saturdays we have our education center; we’ve had classes from tie-dye classes to terpene classes; we have a series of classes we call advocate etiquette classes where we have different activists come in and teach what it’s like when you go up to the capital. There is a way to dress, there is a way to talk, there is a way to approach people, and if you are going to take the time and energy to go out there and fight for legislation, there is a way of doing that. Then Sunday we have our weekly meeting where we just get together, and we check on each other just like a real family would.
Tell us a bit more about the Sunday meetings.
It’s every Sunday at 5 o’clock. For years we’ve been having our weekly meeting down [in Olympia] where we check on each other, we have a session and we talk about things. We talk about things that are coming up, current affairs, and any veteran that finds their way to the door, the front door of our organization is open. We don’t care if they want a sandwich, they need help with their DD 214, they need help with their benefits. We don’t care. Whatever they come to us with, we’re going to help, and that’s not even our mission. Our mission is to bring awareness to veteran suicide. That’s clearly our mission, everything else we do is above and beyond our mission and our motto to end veteran suicide by all means.
What advice would you give to a non-veteran looking to become involved in the mission to end veteran suicide by any means necessary?
Out Of The Darkness is a great organization for suicide awareness. We’ve been supporting their March for years now. Or come down and volunteering with our organization. 2017 was the third year in a row where we won “Volunteer of the Year” through the city of Olympia because we go well into our community and help clean it. We want to be involved in our little community in downtown Olympia. So, we go every other week to this place called the Artesian Well and we clean it up.
Our events calendar is full, we are always doing stuff, and especially more so when we get to better weather. There are so many things that we do to give veterans a mission and a purpose. #missionandpurpose for sure.
What is the organization doing on a federal level to promote veteran suicide awareness?
This will be my fifth year going back to the Americans for Safe Access conference, and it’s the most fun conference of the year [that I attend]. The whole first day is lobbying up at the capital, and then the next two days listening to industry leaders, doctors and listening to people speak on everything [surrounding] medical cannabis. Just an amazing organization, and this year my wife is going to be joining me, so I’m really excited for her as an activist. We win scholarships out there every year, and it’s quite an experience to go out there and talk to Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. The last time I was there I did get a meeting with Bernie Sanders’ people, and they’re just the nicest. The two legislative assistants that came in were veterans, and we sat and talked for like two hours with those guys, and there was nothing left to talk about when we left. It was like, “Are you guys done?” They were asking us if we were done? And just the nicest people. So, there are definitely some people that give you the standard “We will do all we can for you. We are really proud of our work federally and locally, absolutely.”
What are some of the biggest misconceptions facing veterans? Especially veterans who want to use cannabis from a medical perspective?
A lot of our veterans are taken advantage of because they use cannabis for PTSD. Too many veterans in our little circle have lost custody to their children because their wives, mothers [or other family members] are saying, “Hey, this veteran has PTSD and this veteran uses cannabis.” They are taking the kids from those veterans.
The system right now is set up against our veterans. If anybody mentions the words cannabis and PTSD we lose every time, and that is a big [problem]. So many veterans would find relief from PTSD with cannabis. Listen, over here we have 22 suicides per day, 8,000 each year, and with cannabis we all know that it’s never taken a human life in the history of the world. Stating anything opposite of that is just false and misleading, and I would say that’s the biggest misconception. You can use cannabis and still be a good father, and have PTSD, it’s incredibly frustrating that the system is working against our veterans right now.
In March Patrick Seifert was awarded Veteran Advocate of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. We want to congratulate Patrick for his dedication in bringing unity around the fight to end veteran suicide.
If you or someone you know is suffering please reach out to Twenty22Many via its hotline (253)777-5857
- Patrick Seifert – President/Founder
- Dustin Bruce – Vice President
- Randy Madden – Director of Veterans Outreach
- Katharine Seifert – Mrs. Twenty22Many