Article by Nick Etten, Leafly
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.
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.
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.