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Why this group thinks cannabis helps veterans


FRESNO, Calif. – U.S. military veterans have been heavily impacted by the opioid overdose crisis. By some estimates, mortality rates increased by 53% between 2010 and 2019.

The organization Weed for Warriors is among those seeking more research and attention into how cannabis can offer alternatives to treating pain and reducing the harms of opioids.

“Kids of a lot of veterans will say the same thing, ‘Cannabis gave me my father back,’ ‘Cannabis gave me my mother back,’” Sean Kiernan, CEO of the Sacramento-based Weed for Warriors, said.

On Saturday, as veterans are celebrated for their service to the nation, some in Fresno will have access to free cannabis products. Under SB 34, organizations like Weed for Warriors can partner with cannabis dispensaries to provide free cannabis products to people who have difficulty accessing medicinal cannabis – such as veterans.

Weed for Warriors will partner with the cannabis dispensary Embarc – which has a location in Fresno and other areas in northern California – to distribute free cannabis products to veterans.

Veterans will get a bag with more than a dozen cannabis products, as well as a 20% discount throughout Saturday and assistance signing up for a medical card, according to Nic Magbanua, who does marketing for Embarc.

The company partners for free distributions throughout the year, and the products are donated by the different makers.

Private doctors can sign off on medical use of cannabis in California for qualified patients. Federal health providers like Veterans Affairs acknowledge the use of the product among veterans, but don’t officially endorse it.

Kiernan, who is an Army veteran, says attitudes across the country are shifting – such as a recently approved marijuana law in Ohio – and hopes to continue spreading awareness on ways cannabis can help veterans like him.

“Cannabis allows people to re-engage in the world, re-engage with their families and re-engage with the workplace,” Kiernan said.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is KVPR's News Director. Prior to joining the station's news department in 2022, he was a reporter for PBS NewsHour and The Fresno Bee.