Activism

RIP: Matt Kahl, Veteran Rights and Alternative Medicine Advocate

Matt Kahl's medical marijuana activism made him a regular presence at the State Capitol a decade ago.
Matt Kahl's medical marijuana activism made him a regular presence at the State Capitol a decade ago. Matt Kahl's Facebook page
click to enlarge Matt Kahl's medical marijuana activism made him a regular presence at the State Capitol a decade ago. - MATT KAHL'S FACEBOOK PAGE
Matt Kahl's medical marijuana activism made him a regular presence at the State Capitol a decade ago.
Matt Kahl's Facebook page
Matt Kahl, a Colorado-based activist for military veterans as well as cannabis, psychedelic treatment and other forms of alternative healing, has passed away.

Kahl died on Monday, September 13; he was 44 years old. According to his wife, Aimee St. Charles Kahl, her husband's death "was a tragic accident and was not purposeful." She's asked that her family be allowed privacy to grieve, and points to a statement she posted on her personal Facebook page.

"Matt was loved by so many and impacted people on their soul level," it reads. "His eyes were gateways to another dimension and his passion for everything he touched rippled far and wide."

A United States Army veteran, Kahl served in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2011 before moving to Colorado in 2013. He eventually made his home in Divide with his wife and their two sons.


In From Shock to Awe, a 2018 documentary about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics. Kahl details how ayahuasca, an intoxicating South American brew made from Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis plants, improved his PTSD and overall mental health. It made him "a new man," he said.

"I can't even recognize the guy I was in the movie," he told Westword in 2019. "That feeling of brokenness and loss and hopelessness. I have purpose."

But those close to Kahl would argue that he already had plenty of purpose before his life-changing encounter with ayahuasca. He'd founded Veterans for Natural Rights, a veteran advocacy and support organization, in 2014, eventually growing the group's Facebook page to over 31,000 members. Kahl regularly used his social media presence to find veterans and friends anything from a bed to a new job, and he was always willing to stir the pot in an engaging conversation, no matter the topic.

Kahl's activism surrounding medical marijuana and veteran access to alternative health treatments made him a regular presence at the State Capitol in the mid- to late 2010s. He was integral in pushing lawmakers toward adding post-traumatic stress disorder to Colorado's list of acceptable medical marijuana conditions in 2017, and continually lobbied for easing medical marijuana access for veterans as well as securing firearm rights for marijuana users. Kahl was also one of Colorado's first registered hemp farmers after the state legalized the practice in 2014, and he served as an urban agriculture representative on the state Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Advisory Committee.

"It was his passion and mission for everyone, including himself, to be better than they were the day before," St. Charles Kahl says in a message to Westword. "He strived for that, always."
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell