Grass Roots Health, a Chattanooga-based store that sells cannabidiol, or CBD, and other non-intoxicating hemp products derived from cannabis, will start channeling a portion of its sales to local health care nonprofits and organizations fighting the opioid epidemic.

The philanthropic initiative, called Fund 129, will begin by disbursing funds on a quarterly basis to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, the American Legion, the Chattanooga Community Kitchen and other groups managing opiate recovery efforts.

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Elisha Millan (Contributed photo courtesy of Elisha Millan)

Elisha Millan founded Grass Roots Health in June 2017 after CBD helped manage her pain from Crohn's disease. She said Fund 129 is part of her personal mission to offer people a safe and healthy alternative to addictive opioid painkillers and promote the therapeutic potential of hemp.

"I was a person who was homebound because of my pain level and because I refused to take any opiates," Millan said. "Hemp has given me the freedom to be able to have good days and to have hope and be able to exist outside of pain."

Although CBD comes from the same plant as marijuana, it's stripped of the chemical that produces the drug's "high" effect — tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — and legal in Tennessee.

Scientific evidence supporting its benefit is sparse, but many people with medical conditions ranging from epilepsy and gastrointestinal disorders to anxiety and autoimmune diseases swear by CBD.

"It's not a cure, but it is a comfort, and it helps a lot of people," Millan said, adding that many veterans frequent the store seeking relief from service-related injuries, hence Fund 129's partnership with the American Legion. The veteran advocacy organization strongly supports cannabis research for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Millan also plans to fund educational events on addiction and opioids for collegiate and high school students.

"We want to make sure that there is a professional, clinical face to this, that the old stereotypes fall away, that we assure members of our community and our city government that we are here to help," Millan said. "We are not here to party. We want to help benefit the health and well-being of individuals."

As part of the effort, Grass Roots Health is the first hemp business to join forces with the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.

Marisa Ogles, vice president of donor services at the Community Foundation, said in an email that the venture fits the foundation's mission to encourage giving and improve lives in the Chattanooga area.

"One way we accomplish this is through providing a space for individuals, companies and civic groups to give back to the causes and nonprofit organizations they care most about," Ogles said.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.