A Durango veterans’ group received a surprising donation Wednesday in its bid to raise money for a new van – a quarter-ounce of Colorado-grown marijuana.
Bob Collette was pounding the pavement Wednesday on Main Avenue to raise $16,500 to replace the aging van of the Disabled American Veterans Silver San Juan Chapter No. 48.
When he walked into Colorado Grow Co., he didn’t know what to expect. A clerk at the retail marijuana shop, after conferring with one of the shop’s owners, handed over two sealed one-eighth-ounce containers of Grape Krush.
Collette is not accustomed to handling donations that contain 14.31 percent THC – with the logo of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division. Collette understands he can’t legally sell it. So he’s not sure what to do with the blend of 60 percent indica and 40 percent sativa.
He also didn’t feel he should turn down the donation.
“I figured someone would know what to do with it,” Collette said. He said he would consult superiors in the veterans group.
The national Disabled American Veterans headquarters in Cold Spring, Kentucky, could not be reached after business hours Wednesday.
The marijuana has a retail value, after taxes, of $79.90, as Collette’s void receipt shows.
The veterans group more typically gets small monetary donations, or food for its annual picnic. Last year, a local diner gave it 10 pounds of potato salad.
Jason Barker, co-owner of Colorado Grow Co., the retail marijuana shop at 965½ Main Ave. that opened in January, said the donation was intended for “personal consumption.”
“They can’t legally re-sell it,” he said.
Barker said he paid for the donation out of his own pocket. “I figured why not give them product?” he said.
The veterans’ group’s primary task is to ferry local disabled veterans to the nearest Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, more than 200 miles away in Albuquerque. Volunteers drive a seven-passenger van to Albuquerque three to four times a week.
Collette said Durango’s veterans receive excellent care at the local clinic, but specialized medical issues and major procedures require a trip to the larger Albuquerque facility. As a result, the group’s van has quickly accumulated more than 300,000 miles.
“Every few years, we wear out a vehicle,” Collette said.
Collette served in the Army from 1978 to 1982, becoming a sergeant. He said his first and only experience with marijuana came in 1974, when he pulled into a Las Vegas park with a buddy. Unluckily, a police canine unit pulled in behind them. Collette and his buddy panicked.
“We threw it out the window,” Collette said.
The police dog got out of the cop car, relieved itself in the park and left, he said.
Charlie Parnell, another volunteer with the Disabled American Veterans chapter, served as an Air Force officer from 1962 to 1988. Parnell said he’s never smoked marijuana.
“Not in my life,” he said. “In fact, I’ve served on court-martial boards where we kicked a young airman out for doing just that.”
Parnell called Collette “a great fundraiser.” Collette raised $700 Wednesday in addition to the marijuana.
Parnell said he wasn’t surprised by the budding donation.
“All you’ve got to do in this town is say ‘veterans,’ and people will get out a checkbook – or something else.”