Robert Head, Dallas, Texas

Six years ago, Robert Head, a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army Infantry, was having a hard time with pain in his knees and feet. To manage it, he was taking painkillers, including 10-15 ibuprofen each day, and drinking a fifth of whiskey. But he knew it wasn’t sustainable. He was increasingly irritable and having issues with his family, including his young son and daughter, then ages 8 and 3. He was struggling to monitor the pills and drinking.

Army Specialist Robert Head in IraqSo he reached out on social media for advice on alternatives. Cannabis was the recommendation from several people, and one friend sent him cannabis oil pills. He didn’t want to get high, just better, but decided this was part of the journey, so he tried one.

“I was getting my daughter out of the bath when I realized my body felt really good,” Robert remembers. “My knees weren’t hurting, and my sleep was really solid.”

Over a few weeks with the cannabis oil, Robert suddenly realized he was undergoing a dramatic change.

“I realized I was going days without drinking without realizing it,” he says. “Suddenly, it was much more water and less alcohol and soda.”

As he detoxed, he turned to researching cannabis and, like many people, became fascinated with the plant. He discovered that a friend from the Army was a caregiver in Maine, growing cannabis for patients. Robert took a trip there to check it out. After that visit, Robert decided to invest in creating a small farm with his friend. He would fly out from Texas to work the farm, cultivating and harvesting cannabis for himself and other patients.

“It was so enlightening being part of an organic business like this. Then I’d come back to Texas, and it’s completely illegal,” says Robert. “But Texas is my home state, where I spend 99% of my time, so I became an activist here.”

Robert went to Austin to lobby state politicians, attended rallies, and slowly started to see a little movement. Then he began putting on events.

“I want to get knowledge out to people who don’t care about cannabis,” Robert says. “Lots of events preach to the choir, but so many different types of people come together around the plant.”

Robert began reaching out to police groups and community organizations, explaining the different cannabis markets. And he spent time thinking about why Texans might oppose legal cannabis. As a conservative, he was ready to argue with Republicans, but he also knows Texas is a unique state.

“We need to get people on board who influence the state – big businesses, including those moving here,” he says. “They don’t need to endanger their employees by testing them. They don’t have to fire people for using medical cannabis and affect their business.”

Robert Head at the Hemp for Victory eventEarlier this year, a retired lieutenant colonel approached Robert about putting on a party for veterans after the Air Force-Army football game to promote safe access. They decided on Texas Live, a big venue in Arlington, midway between Fort Worth and Dallas. The venue operators were nervous, but willing to talk. They had to ask if they were going to be selling anything, Robert remembers with a laugh.

“You break through the lies about cannabis by getting in front of opponents in their own environment,” Robert says. “That can be a little uncomfortable, but then you get past their barriers.”

Robert is currently a speaker and event producer working with many veterans’ organizations to bring ideas together. He is looking for organizations to help, and was glad to get Weedmaps to help sponsor his Hemp for Victory event at Texas Live (pictured at right), which also had the support of ASA.

“Like many people, when I got into this I said I wanted to make money, but after 6 years of doing this work, I just want to get my community better, and that’s vets,”

Robert is planning a rooftop party to highlight veterans’ groups during South by Southwest, the annual tech-music-arts festival in Austin. He is also working on a documentary called Leaves of Passion about what Texas veterans go through to use the plant and how it helps them. That project features professors from Texas A&M and other schools, the Houston district attorney, and state legislators covering the history of the issue and the current federal-state conflict.

Filming is done, but Robert is looking for sponsors to help pay for the editing to finish it and get it distributed so people can see what veterans confront.

“I hear from vets 4 or 5 times a year who are at the end of their rope, begging for help,” Robert says. “Why should I have to break the law to save someone’s life? It’s not right.”

“War benefits politicians, not soldiers; war creates veterans,” Robert says. “I think they owe them the legalization of cannabis.”

This profile was originally published in the November 2021 ASA Activist Newsletter