Travis MacKenzie co-owns TJ's Organic Provisions and TJ's Organic Gardens with partners Jim Murphy and James Orpeza.
Tell us a little about your personal background.
I grew up primarily in Montana, but moved to Oregon in the summer of 1986 where I finished high school and met my future wife Cham. We were married in 1990, the same year I joined the U.S. Coast Guard. After serving for four years in the Coast Guard, I moved my family back to Oregon and we finally ended up in Eugene in 1995. I was an electronics technician in the Coast Guard and have always been interested in how things work. I like to take things apart, put things together, fix things that are broken, and make new things that are useful.
When did you first become interested in cannabis?
I first became interested in cannabis after my wife was injured on the job in 2005 and suffered a traumatic brain injury. We quickly learned that Oregon's State Accident Insurance Fund was not interested in helping my wife recover from her injuries in a natural, healthy way. Rather, they were interested in giving her whatever toxic pharmaceuticals it took to get her awake enough to show up to work for long enough to avoid classifying her as disabled. At one point she was taking a drug cocktail that included amphetamine salts, modafinil (a drug primarily prescribed for narcolepsy), and drugs for migraine headaches. Not only did this host of prescribed medications fail to alleviate any of her symptoms, but it also noticeably reduced her liver and kidney function within weeks. It was terrifying. I thought that I had lost my wife forever. It was at this very low point in our lives, and Cham's neurologist suggested she try cannabis. After some initial reluctance, Cham agreed to let me grow for her.
What do you like most about growing?
What I like most about growing is the feeling that I am doing the right thing—an important thing. I didn't grow up in a cannabis culture. I was never a regular user of cannabis. Now I can't imagine my life without it.
In your opinion, what makes Eugene special?
The people. Sure, geographically Eugene is great. There is a mild climate, and we're within close proximity to mountains, rivers, lakes, national forests and the Pacific Ocean. But really, the people make this place. Some of the finest craftsmen and craftswomen in the world call Eugene home, whether they make beer, yo-yos, bows, blown-glass or instruments. There is a culture of innovation and self-reliance in Eugene, and I love it.
What’s your favorite TJ’s product?
My favorite TJ's product is our CBD tincture. It is such an important medicine, and the times that I have been the most humbled and the most grateful for having the opportunity to grow this amazing plant have been when I've seen the positive effects this extract has had on the lives of so many people.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to go camping with friends and family and spend time in the wood shop with my friend, Charlie, while making furniture. We're much better at finding and reclaiming wood at this point than we are at making furniture. Maybe if there was more free time....
What excites you most about legalization?
We can finally dispel so many of the myths surrounding this plant. The truth that this plant is good is undeniable to those of us who spend time with it. With legalization comes exposure. With exposure comes truth.
What’s a common misconception people have about cannabis?
A common misconception about cannabis among cannabis users is that high THC plants are better. There are interesting medicinal and recreational aspects of plants all across the THC potency spectrum. I don't even like to tell people the potency of any particular plant. I want people to let their bodies—not a laboratory—judge a plant.
A common misconception about cannabis from non-cannabis users is that there aren't any medical benefits and that it's a dangerous drug (or that only drug abusers use cannabis). All of those misconceptions are so far from the truth that I don't even know what to say to people who believe that. There is so much evidence to the contrary; only through willful ignorance can anyone believe those claims. When someone is willfully ignorant, it's a choice, and you can't teach someone like that. I'm talking to you, Chris Christie.
Anything you'd like to add?
I'd like to add a word of thanks to all of those free-thinkers who have been trying to teach the masses and dispel the myths and lies about the cannabis plant for decades. Many of these people have gone to prison or died having been denied life-saving medicine by nonsensical legislation. I am living the life I want to live—a life that brings me so much satisfaction—because so many have sacrificed theirs to prison cells or graves to raise the awareness of the wonderful properties of this plant.