The Forrest Initiative

September 06, 2017 | NORTHWEST LEAF

Every month, around 150 patients (average age 10 years old) receive free medicine from TJ's Gardens to help them heal. Story and photos by Nate Williams


Tanesha Smelser was an ordinary Oregon mom living in the Eugene area with her 7-year-old son. She worked in healthcare administration and was studying to become a nurse. In 2014, Smelser’s son Forrest was diagnosed with epilepsy.

The Oregon native was not unfamiliar with Cannabis and began researching how to obtain the renowned Charlotte’s Web strain that most outside of the Cannabis industry have heard about in relation to CBD medicine for seizures. When she finally found the cultivar, it was incredibly expensive and she was forced to continue to look for a more affordable option.

She continued on the hunt and was eventually introduced to a team member at TJ’s Gardens, a vertically integrated OLCC licensed Cannabis company owned by Travis Mackenzie, Jim Murphy and James Orpeza. TJ’s Gardens started as a labor of love for Travis’s wife, Cham. She had an accident that resulted in a brain injury and debilitating migraines. Her neurologist strongly suggested she try medical marijuana.


When the TJ’s team got word of Smelser’s situation, they opted to take a step towards breaking the mold and removing the stigma from the Cannabis industry. TJ’s decided not only to help Forrest, but to treat him absolutely free of cost. After months of searching without successfully finding the right medicine for her son, Smelser was floored and beyond grateful. For six months after his first dose, Forrest was seizure-free.

“Prior to TJ’s, I worked in healthcare administration, primarily geriatrics, home health and hospice,” Smelser said. “I was pursuing a nursing degree with the intention of becoming a hospice nurse. I got spooked when it hit me kids need hospice too and took a term off. During my hiatus, Forrest started seizing. The universe didn’t seem to let me divert attention from my intended path.

I showed up at TJ’s Provisions on the first day of recreational sales with a couple boxes of cookies and half a dozen energy drinks. I knew they were going to be exhausted and busy so I was trying to help the people that were helping me. I jumped in for some crowd management and stayed for a few hours. The manager at the time asked if I could come back the next day and do it again. I agreed to work a couple days a week as reception while Forrest was at school.”

This request began a chain reaction that lead to the creation of The Forrest Initiative. Smelser quickly transitioned from receptionist to program director and got to work laying foundations, spreading the word, and bringing new patients on board.


In a few short years, The Forrest Initiative grew in leaps and bounds. Today, almost 150 patients averaging around 10 years old receive medicine from TJ’s Gardens every month for free.

Medicine is dispensed exclusively in tincture form with marked droppers for consistent and accurate dosing. Parents receive three distinct cannabinoid tinctures, THCA, CBD and THC, giving them the ability to find the combination that works best for their child’s particular ailment.

All of the material that goes into these tinctures is sourced from TJ’s own gardens. This is an admirable feat and is necessary to ensure a safely cultivated and processed product that can truly tout itself as a healing medicine.

Unfortunately, even if it is legal in your state, if you treat your child’s epileptic seizures using Cannabis, Child Protective Services could take away your child.

This is an increasingly common experience for parents of children suffering from epileptic seizures in more than 20 states across our country where Cannabis is still completely illegal and in some circumstances, even in those where it is.

The irony of this is that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was awarded federal patent number 6630507 in 2003, granting them exclusive rights to “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.”

Oregon Leaf will continue to monitor and report on the progress of The Forrest Initiative as it grows and develops. Incredible success stories like these serve as an excellent reminder that Cannabis is the most sacred and diverse plant on Earth and needs to be treated as such. We hope to see more Cannabis businesses making charitable and philanthropic efforts as our industry continues to step out of prohibition and into legitimacy.

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