Selling legalized marijuana is highly profitable, but an Army veteran in Woodland Park wants to give it away to veterans struggling with behavioral issues and addictions to pain medicines.
In January, Roger Martin founded Operation Grow 4 Vets. He went public about his organization Tuesday, and said he's received 200 online registrations from veterans interested in obtaining the free recreational marijuana.
Martin said he understands what many veterans are experiencing, and wants to help them.
"I ingest some sort of edible marijuana every night,." he said. "That allows me to sleep, for my pain level to be low enough, so I can sleep four or five hours a night. If I didn't do that, then it might be an hour or two if I'm lucky."
Martin said members of the marijuana industry have expressed interest in providing him with marijuana and growing materials.
"Stores, growers can give us free marijuana," he said. "Medical stores cannot. But the retail stores can, as long as they list it on their books as part of doing business."
Martin said that using recreational marijuana avoids the limitations in current laws regarding medical marijuana. Earlier this week, state lawmakers said that post-traumatic stress disorder, a common behavioral condition among veterans, is not an accepted condition to be legally treated with medical marijuana.
But the law doesn't prohibit the free giving of small amounts of recreational marijuana, Martin said.
Martin said he'll check the backgrounds of applicants to ensure they are age 21 or older and have a legitimate medical need. Instead of operating from one location, he said he'll travel around the state and distribute marijuana at different locations.
Distribution will begin in the Denver area during Memorial Day weekend, Martin said, with the second giveaway in Colorado Springs at an unspecified date. He expects an overwhelming response.
"The distribution, obviously," Martin said. "Managing that -- which we hope to do primarily by having veterans enroll in advance online -- so we'll have some concept of what kind of security we need, how many people are going to be there."
Woodland Park Police Chief Bob Larson said he anticipates no problems with a distribution there, as long as the organization obtains a permit.
"We'd be interested in watching to make sure that there's nobody who is too young, is getting marijuana," he said. "We'd be interested to make sure that nobody is selling it. People have different opinions about it, but within the law, it's not the concern of police."
Ellen Baese, a Woodland Park resident, shared her negative opinion about the plan.
"I know you're talking specifically about (marijuana being) free to veterans," she said. "I'm still against it. I don't think marijuana is safe. Nothing will change my mind, I don't think, on that."
Martin said that since Colorado doesn't allow private labs to test the potency of marijuana for families treating children, he wants to provide free testing kits for families. He said he also wants to convince the Veterans Administration to prescribe marijuana to patients.
Colorado has an estimated 400,000 veterans, Martin said.