Sgt. Bruce Bomier smoked his first marijuana cigarette in 1969, following a "deadly fight" on the Vietnam-Cambodian border as an Army infantry platoon scout.

Shaken, Bomier recalled that a special forces medic gave him the joint.

"It was relaxing," recalled Bomier. "Interestingly, South Vietnamese soldiers sort of taught Americans how to approach marijuana in ways that were pleasant and safe. They had serious, family-based rules.''

Including keeping it from children.

Bomier, a Bronze Star and Air Medal recipient, also witnessed alcohol and drug abuse among the troops with whom he served. The science major who joined the Army after graduation in 1968 came home after he was wounded in Cambodia in 1970. He earned a master's degree in public health and epidemiology from the University of Minnesota.

Bomier, now 75, and Dr. Kyle Kingsley, 46, a former Minnesota National Guard medic and emergency room doctor, are two thoughtful cannabis stalwarts I have chronicled over 45 years. Kingsley in 2014 founded Goodness Growth, Minnesota's largest medical cannabis firm.

"I have a high level of confidence that replacing alcohol or opioids with cannabis is a winning proposition for the individual and society," Kingsley said. "But just swapping one-for-one is not how it works.''

They have been guided by public health, research and reality. They are long concerned with substance abuse, of marijuana, alcohol or any other drug. They advocate cannabis as a plant-based drug that can relieve pain and provide therapeutic value if used properly.

And appropriate use does not include developing teenage brains.

"The propensity for otherwise healthy humans to alter their brain chemistry with intoxicating substances seems to know no bounds," said Kingsley, who started researching cannabis a decade ago when he determined that most of his emergency room cases connected to alcohol or opioids. "People should have safe access to cannabis, but we need to go into this with eyes wide open. Many advocates do the movement no favors by acting like this is a magical fix. For many, cannabis is not helpful.''

After the Army, Bomier worked as a court-appointed advocate for veterans with drug issues in Hennepin County. He helped establish treatment programs. And Bomier was part of a coalition in the late 1970s, along with judges, vets, pharmacists, some law enforcement officials and others who persuaded the Minnesota Legislature to "decriminalize" cannabis.

Instead of landing in jail for a year or longer for possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, those arrested generally were ticketed and attended a class about responsible use of stimulants. Some were referred for treatment. Interested parents were engaged.

"Before that, an unshaven kid in a faded army jacket or at an anti-war rally … or just walking into Dayton's was likely to get searched and arrested, if the police found marijuana," Bomier recalled. "And a kid found with a joint could never become an attorney or join a plumber's union'' because of the related criminal record.

Bomier went on to start an environmental engineering company and serve for more than a decade on the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. He worked successfully in the 1980s and 1990s with the late Eddie Phillips, of family-owned Phillips Distilling Co., to warn women not to drink while pregnant.

Bomier, who doesn't use cannabis, is still involved in public health.

He sold his 60-employee enviro-engineering firm, Institute for Environmental Assessment, in 2009 in a 10-year buyout by his hand-picked successor.

Bomier invested some of his proceeds into a nonprofit, Environmental Resource Council, a research and publication outfit that covers subjects from keeping schools safe during COVID-19 to Bomier-authored "Marijuana and the Responsible Parent."

"I wrote the first edition of 'Marijuana and Responsible Parent' in the late 1980s," said Bomier of a book lauded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "It's now in its 12th printing. The biggest change over the years is that we initially had to explain what marijuana was to parents. Now, it's more persuading parents to share knowledgeable life guidance to best protect their children.

The nonprofit also is supported by businesses and foundations.

"I'm a retired CEO ... but still working in public health," Bomier said. "And marijuana is still part of my professional story."