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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

With an eye on veterans, Olympia cannabis activist welcomes Hempfest outpost

By Andy Hobbs Olympian (Olympia, Wash.)

Seattle Hempfest organizers are opening an outpost in downtown Olympia with a little help from one of the state’s most visible cannabis activists.

Olympia Hempfest Central will have a grand opening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at 322 Fourth Ave. E., site of the former Rainier Xpress medical marijuana dispensary owned by Patrick Seifert.

A supporter of the medical marijuana movement, Seifert was unable to secure a state license to sell cannabis legally and was forced to close Rainier Xpress last summer after five years.

However, Seifert remains dedicated to educating people and helping veterans. The downtown building is now the headquarters for his new ReLeaf Xchange and as the veteran advocacy group Twenty22Many.

“Olympia is our home,” said Seifert, acknowledging an ongoing struggle to pay the lease. “We’re going to fight tooth and nail to keep it open.”

ReLeaf Xchange will cater to state-qualified medical marijuana patients while offering educational programs for the entire community. Weekly classes include gardening and cooking techniques, and proper cannabis consumption through methods such as dabbing.

Along with T-shirts and glass pipes, the shop sells cannabis-based creams and edibles that lack the psychoactive ingredient THC, but contain cannabidiol (CBD), which is valued for medicinal purposes. Seifert also offers organic kombucha and alkaline water that’s been run through a Kangen ionizer.

Veterans form the backbone of Seifert’s outreach. To curb the veteran suicide rate, the group Twenty 22 Many (“twenty-two too many”) supports veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The group’s name comes from a grim statistic: an average of 22 veterans take their own lives each day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Literally every single day, we get homeless veterans in here looking to stay warm,” said Seifert, who served in the Marine Corps. “Any veteran is welcome here.”

Sharon Whitson, general manager of Seattle Hempfest, said the Olympia outpost and its partnership with Seifert seemed like a natural fit.

She praised Seifert and his volunteers for their outreach to veterans and their work in the legalization movement. One example is a successful lobbying effort in 2015 that added PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana authorization in Washington.

These lobbying and charitable efforts, she said, help reduce the stigma of cannabis while further legitimizing its positive attributes.

“Society is owed the truth about the medicinal benefits of cannabis, especially to help people who have given their life, blood, body and brain to our country,” said Whitson, noting the effect of cannabis’ illegal status at the federal level on research and pain management. “Prohibition has hurt so many people, and to know that it’s hurting our veterans is a travesty.”

On a related note, Washington cannabis activists are watching a couple of bills during the legislative session, which started Monday. House Bill 1060 has been introduced as a way to allow students to consume marijuana for medical purposes on school grounds. House Bill 1092 would allow adults to privately grow as many as six marijuana plants with a maximum 24-ounce harvest.