Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus has given cannabis activist Leo Bridgewater the ultimate industry nod: They named their newest strain after him.
Harmony released Bridge H2O last week, based on Bridgewater’s cannabinoid profile and terpene preferences to help folks dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. Bridgewater, who focuses his activism on people of color and veterans having equitable access to cannabis, was named Activist of the Year at the International Cannabis Business Awards last year in Las Vegas. Though he’s a Trenton resident, he has been a patient at Harmony for two years.
Up until the moment he was awarded Activist of the Year, Bridgewater said he’d never stopped to take a look back at what he’d achieved through his activism. The former army specialist who served three tours in the Middle East and returned multiple times as a contractor became a cannabis activist after several friends died by suicide due to PTSD.
His testimony in front of a New Jersey Senate Committee to have PTSD include in the state’s Medical Marijuana Program resulted in its addition in September 2016.
“I never stopped to take a look at what I’d done … when you’re in the moment, you don’t realize what you look like to other people because you’re too busy doing it. That was the first time anyone forced me to stop and said ‘look at what you’ve done,’” Bridgewater said. “But then you get someone to say ‘hey, we believe in so much of what you’ve done that we wanna name a strain after you,’ it’s like ‘What? Are you serious right now?’ It don’t get no more flattering than that. I thought about this when I got up this morning—there’s a whole new generation of people who have no idea who Jack Herer is, but they know that damn strain. That’s where for me, it’s like ‘damn. This is so surreal.’”
Herer was a prominent cannabis rights activist best known for his 1985 book The Emperor Wears No Clothes. Emperor of Hemp, a PBS documentary about his life, played on television stations throughout the country in 1999. Jack Herer, a Sativa-dominant strain of cannabis named in his honor, was created in the Netherlands in the 1990s and was eventually distributed by Dutch pharmacies as a medical-grade strain. It is currently available at dispensaries in multiple states, including California and Massachusetts.
To create Bridge H2O, Harmony Director of Cultivation Adam Johnstone spent months peppering Bridgewater with questions on his cannabis preferences. In Harmony’s library of genetic stock material, Johnstone sprouted around 100 seeds of varying genetics based on Bridgewater’s preferences, looking to cultivate an Indica-dominant hybrid with strong terpenes, which give the buds their flavor and smell, known to enhance relaxation and relieve stress.
Due to state medical cannabis regulation, Bridgewater wasn’t allowed to try the strain they settled on until it was tested in state laboratories. Evaluating which strain to go with “was a lot of smelling and internal testing” with a Gemmacert device, Johnstone explained, that provides an idea of potency with the power of infrared light.
The biggest part of the evaluation process for Bridgewater, though, was Johnstone’s seemingly endless line of questions.
“Going through this process, and I don’t think I ever told Adam this so I’m gonna make sure I do, in all honesty, it was a form of therapy. If it wasn’t for Adam asking such direct poignant questions, he [wouldn’t have] pulled a lot out of me,” Bridgewater said. “Adam would tell me, ‘to your credit Leo, you had to be willing to let it out. Not everyone’s willing to let that out.’ I’ve always said I want to be a vessel which the industry works through. How can I do that if I’m not open? It don’t work that way. You have to be willing.”
“This process, it’s uncomfortable, but you have to be willing to be open to it. Everybody don’t like to get naked. If I hope to be a help to some people that I know are going through the same things as I am, and even worse than me … in the grand scheme of things, it’s such a small sacrifice,” Bridgewater said. “If I’m willing to die for the country, why wouldn’t I be willing to be naked to save the country? Aren’t you sick of sitting in your head feeling helpless? I’m a former non-commissioned officer of the United States Army. I gotta do something. And this was the metaphorical doing something. This was specifically for people dealing with PTSD.”
Bridge H2O is available to patients at Harmony Dispensary. Johnstone told NJBIZ that while the release of Bridge H2O has been in the hopper for about a year, Harmony “didn’t expect to release this in such a fraught time.”
While the dispensary released it so that it could get in the hands of patients in need, he said the company hopes to be able to plan something around Veteran’s Day to celebrate Bridgewater and highlight his namesake strain.