Veterans for Cannabis is an ongoing series that profiles veterans whose lives have been impacted by medical cannabis. After coming home, many of our veterans face an uphill battle in their journey to healing as federal restrictions bar legal access to cannabis, despite its ability to alleviate pain, PTSD, pharmaceutical dependence, and other wounds of war. Find more veteran stories here.
Growing up in Bakersfield, CA, Lieutenant Colonel Todd Scattini seemed an unlikely candidate for a cannabis advocate. Raised by conservative parents, his family made their living by way of the land and the law—his father as a cowboy who worked the ranch, and his mother and stepfather as employees of the Sheriff’s department.
From a young age, however, Scattini paved his own path. After failing out of community college, he worked multiple jobs, resisting relatives’ advice to join the Army. It wasn’t until an accident that totaled his car and landed Scattini in the hospital that his period of youthful resistance came to an end. Soon thereafter, he walked into the nearest recruiter’s office and enlisted in the United States Army as a Czech and Slovak linguist.
The Army quickly recognized Scattini’s leadership abilities. He was offered a coveted appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated in 1996, the same year cannabis was made legal for medical use in his home state of California—a meaningful coincidence he marks with pride.
Todd Scattini in Paris, France. (Courtesy of Todd Scattini)
Early in his career, Scattini served in combat arms roles, including Tank & Scout platoon leader and Cavalry troop commander. His language skills and passion for foreign service led to positions overseas, including at the US Embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia. But it was his assignment in 2011, as a senior advisor to the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, that opened his eyes to the both the opportunity of hemp and the healing power of medical cannabis.
Lt. Colonel Todd Scattini
At the time, the Afghans were using their country’s resources to grow and sell hashish on the black market to fund deadly explosives that were used to target American and coalition forces. Scattini was tasked with developing a strategy for how to redirect Afghanistan’s natural resources into new markets. His recommendation? Hemp.
Though the idea didn’t take flight, Scattini became intrigued by the potential applications of cannabis. Says Scattini: “This is something that was fascinating on so many different levels—economy, employment, social justice, and medicine. I had to learn more.” The “Hemp Colonel” was born.
Scattini’s efforts to understand the depth and range of medical cannabis intensified when one of his former platoon leaders succumbed to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs have become so pervasive that officials refer to them as a signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “He died because they couldn’t stop the inflammation in his brain,” says Scattini. “I think there’s a chance we could have saved him.”
Through extensive research, Scattini learned that components of the plant could be used as a neuroprotectant, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. This insight was one of many that led to the creation of The Athena Protocol, a strategy Scattini and his team have developed to mitigate and treat TBI on the battlefield. Scattini believes that this effort may also provide protection against CTE, a degenerative brain disease often found in NFL players.
Returning stateside in 2016 for his final assignment, Scattini spent two years positioning himself for the next phase of his life in the cannabis industry. He retired last month, and is now the CEO of Harvest 360 and the European representative of CW Hemp.
The Scattini family will relocate to Prague, CZ, next summer. Scattini’s goal with Harvest 360 is to link the North American cannabis industry to the emerging medical cannabis market in Europe. The open research environment in Europe allows him to pursue cutting-edge research in cooperation with the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute in Prague.
Having traded combat arms for cannabis, Scattini is still driven by the same mission and values he followed during his 27 years on active duty. “In the military, when developing plans, we are constantly encouraged to think critically about complex problems and to devise creative solutions,” he says. “I believe there are miracles hidden inside the cannabis plant, and I want to be an integral part of the process of discovering and applying them.”