Eric Goepel is the founder and CEO of the Veterans Cannabis Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition and ensuring that the Department of Veteran Affairs researches and develops cannabis-based medications. Enlisting in the U.S. Army at the age of 18, he served for seven years, providing communications and intelligence support in the special operations community. During that time, Eric deployed twice to Iraq and once to the Philippines. After the end of his enlistment, Eric worked as a defense contractor in Afghanistan before returning to the U.S. to complete his bachelor’s degree. Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Eric was able to attend and graduate from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in political science.
During and following college, Eric worked in various policy analysis and advocacy roles in Washington, D.C., such as the assistant director of the American Legion’s National Security Division. In that position, Eric developed positions for the country’s largest war-time veteran association on the opioid crisis, cybersecurity, and transnational organized crime. His national security writing has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, Defense One, and the National Interest.
It was during his work on federal opioid response policies that Eric became convinced of the need to make cannabis available as a pain management alternative to everyone, especially veterans at risk of suicide and overdose. After months of discussion with fellow Iraq veteran and D.C. hand, Bill Ferguson, Eric and Bill decided to strike out independently and create the Veterans Cannabis Coalition to specifically bring the veterans community together to effectively push for cannabis reform.
Bill Ferguson is the co-founder of the Veterans Cannabis Coalition and a U.S. Army infantry combat veteran of the Iraq War. He served in the 3rd Infantry Division during the initial invasion of Iraq and was with the first units to reach Baghdad in 2003. After returning home from the war, Bill joined a small group of dynamic post-9/11 military veterans in Washington, D.C. to advocate for healthcare, education, and employment for America’s veterans. He has been involved in the passage of several key pieces of modern legislation, including the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (Post-9/11 GI Bill) and the Veterans Outreach Improvement Act, among others. As a disabled veteran, Bill has first-hand experience grappling with the challenges of managing service-connected injuries and conditions and is devoted to strengthening the coalition of doctors, veterans, law enforcement, faith leaders, and patients that are working together to end cannabis prohibition.Bill is an alumnus of Marion Military College and has a certificate in Conflict Analysis and Negotiation Management from the US Institute for Peace.
Today, VCC works in Washington, D.C., California, and with other veteran leaders around the country, to organize, educate, and advocate on behalf of veterans and all patients. Veterans issues are American issues–the physical, mental, and social challenges in the community may be amplified, but they are not unique. Veterans offer a way to unite fragmented groups around a message of compassion and access–something that VCC intends to ensure happens across the country.