VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A local Navy veteran opened a cannabis smoke shop in Virginia Beach after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), night terrors and pain from a double hip replacement.
Nicholas Rocha, co-owner of Queen's Green Apothecary, said after 26 years of service as a Navy SEAL, he began to look into the world of cannabis products.
“If you had asked me my stance on cannabis five years ago, I would have said not only, 'No,' but, 'Hell no,'” Rocha said.
Rocha said he first looked into the products for his daughter, who has depression, anxiety and motor tics. He said they tried many pharmaceuticals, but nothing helped until she obtained a medical marijuana license.
"Man, that was a game changer for us,” Rocha said.
He and his partner, Dr. Kara Coe, opened Queen's Green Apothecary to help serve the local community. They sell products like CBD oils and tinctures, Delta-8, gummies, salves, lotions, cream and more. In July, the law in Virginia changed to allow 1 oz. of marijuana per person over the age of 21 for recreational use.
Those 21 and over are also allowed to grow four marijuana plants per household. Medicinal marijuana is also legal. However, stores are currently not able to sell marijuana.
Rocha said he saw the opportunity to create a "cannabar," a hookah-style bar where people can come to smoke their 1 oz. of recreational marijuana. Queen's Green offers memberships or day passes to the cannabar.
"Folks in the cannabis world also want a sense of community - a place where they can come and identify and listen to good music or do a paint and puff or listen to a comedy show, but you get to smoke a joint while you’re enjoying it," Rocha said.
Rocha said he is often approached by members of the veteran community. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 8% of veterans have PTSD. For those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, that number jumps up to 11% to 20%.
“You can’t help but have night terrors and headaches and wake up in pools of sweat thinking you’re back in the fight again,” Rocha said.
Rocha said he will be applying for a dispensary license, once applications open in 2023. Assuming reenactment by the General Assembly, legal sales to adults 21 and older can begin on January 1, 2024.