By Michael Kinney
When Donnie Pyatt was asked to describe Country Cannabis, some of the first words he uttered were ‘veteran-owned’. As the Chief Compliance Officer of the Oklahoma-based dispensary, he could have used a myriad of different phrases, but that seemed to be the one that was most important to him.
It’s not just because Pyatt spent 23 years in the military himself. Or that his brother, Clint Pyatt, who founded the company was in the Marine Corps for six years as well.
“We come from a military lineage. Our dad was in the army and was drafted to Vietnam,” Donnie Pyatt said. “Both his brothers got drafted. My son is 18 and about to leave for the Marines Corps boot camp after he graduates high school.”
So, when Pyatt says Country Cannabis is ‘veteran-owned and also trying to help veterans out,’ it’s not just some words stuck on a company bumper sticker. It’s something they mean.
In the four years Country Cannabis has been in existence, they have strived to give to the military community. That includes providing a discount for military (retired or active) personnel.
Pyatt knows the physical, emotional and mental toils of being in the military and knows cannabis is an option that many veterans are starting to explore more and more.
“Every veteran deals with their demons the best that they can. All veterans will have demons. There is no doubt about that. For good or worse, if you become a veteran and get out of the service, you are a changed person,” Pyatt said. “How you deal with that is completely independent upon each veteran. I can’t say that a veteran is handling it wrong or handling it right because I had to deal with my own. If medical marijuana, or even if it goes recreational, if they have PTSD and they have demons, or they have things they can not forget, and if medical or recreational marijuana helps them, then more power to them.”
As a former member of the Tulsa Police Department, Pyatt has seen firsthand the alternative of not getting the help that is needed to battle those demons. That is a road that can lead to addiction to drugs that can destroy lives.
“I have seen so many lives shredded and torn apart by hard narcotics, oxycontin, prescription meds, Heroin is a huge one,” Pyatt said. “Those are nasty drugs to get addicted to. That’s why a lot of people are on heroin. People I have made arrests on and talked to, I would ask them why they are messing with heroin, it’s horrible. They are like, “well, I got hooked on OxyContin and I can’t get any more Oxycontin. It was just easier to buy Heroin on the streets.’ It’s a nasty drug to get addicted to.”
Part of stopping the surge toward opioids and other drugs means helping change the perception of marijuana in the medical field.
“Cannabis is not seen very well in the medical field as helping. There are still a lot of people who say it doesn’t help,” Pyatt said. “That is just not the case. We have patients who come up and they will tell us straight out they had a problem until they got their card and took our product. ‘I had nothing else to turn to. Now I do.’ It’s kind of like the giving back is being able to do something that is not a hard drug. I know from personal experience, from my wife’s family members, who could have had a better quality of life before he passed if was able to have medical marijuana.”
The Country Cannabis motto of giving back extends beyond the military as well. The very first Country Cannabis dispensary in Oklahoma was opened up in Wilburton, which is in the Southeast corner of the state. Built on the backs of the coal and gas industry, it now has a population of under 2,500 people and is declining.
It doesn’t seem like a prime spot to introduce a business. But that is not the way XX Pyatt saw it.
“My brother, when he came into Oklahoma, he started in Wilburton Oklahoma. My grandparents are from there, my parents still live in that area. Our bloodlines run deep in that county,” Donnie Pyatt said. “That is not an area that is usually hit with a lot of industry. He could have picked Tulsa right away. But his thinking was, if we go in there and do this, maybe we can help out the area and give some jobs to people. Maybe I can kick start the growth of Wilburton again and make it to where it’s not a dwindling little ghost town like so many other small towns in Oklahoma seem to be doing.”
Pyatt has only been with Country Cannabis for four months. He previously had been a member of the Tulsa Police Department for close to seven years until his brother was able to convince him to take a job with the company.
It was not an easy decision for Pyatt to leave the police department for a career in an industry he knew almost nothing about.
“The TPD, we have had our times when we have been in the news for stuff, but it is a huge family,” Pyatt said. “You make so many good relationships and they are just like your family members. It was a tough decision because it was like leaving one family to go work with my blood family.”
In that time Pyatt has had a crash course on the industry. He is having to learn the ins and out of not just the company, but also a growing industry that is still trying to figure out which way it’s heading.
“Wading through all the rules and compliance. Not just Oklahoma. We also have processors in Colorado, we’re getting into California, South Dakota, Florida is coming up, New York. Just reading all the rules and regulations for each state is definitely a challenge. It is exactly what I thought it would be. I knew I would be dealing with people who have been in the game for a while. I am new to it. I knew it would be very challenging to try and catch up and I’m not even close to catching up to everyone else’s knowledge in other companies or just my brother.”
Yet, the challenge of learning the industry is just one of the elements that excites Pyatt about his new position.
“What’s really exciting about coming to work for my brother at Country Cannabis is him opening up in other states. He puts the business in other states,” Pyatt said. “It’s just to see the company grow. That is what’s exciting. Like Kansas. It’s not legal there yet, but if I was a betting man, I would say it will be by next year.”
But no matter where a Country Cannabis store is located now and opens up in the future, Pyatt said they will still have the same foundation they started with.
“We’re not a bunch of people who just got together and said, ‘Oh, we’re going to make this company in Oklahoma and we’re just a bunch of outsiders and we’re just trying to do it to make money.’ I would like for people to know that Country Cannabis, born and raised, native Oklahomans, and we’re not out to just sell a product to get rich or to make money off of it,” Pyatt said. “That’s not the goal. The goal is to provide a product that people can take for medical issues. And that it’s just good people trying to do good things with it.”
Thank You All for helping honor the men and women who protect our freedom.
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