A California dispensary is giving away $5,000 worth of free weed to help veterans who are suffering from PTSD or other service-related health issues.

The giveaway is being hosted by the Weed for Warriors Project in partnership with Perfect Union, a licensed cannabis company that operates several medical and adult-use dispensaries in northern California. Between 9 a.m. and noon this Saturday, Perfect Union will hand out free cannabis products to any veteran that can demonstrate proof of their service and a valid medical marijuana card. The event will be held at the Perfect Union dispensary in Maryville, about 40 miles north of Sacramento.

“Veterans are required to show hard copy proof of service, state ID, and current medical recommendation to receive free cannabis,” said Angelica Sanchez, senior director of Government Affairs & Compliance at Perfect Union, to The Appeal-Democrat. “This is the third event we’ve had with [Weed for Warriors] but the first we’ve hosted at our Marysville location.”

The Weed for Warriors Project has been advocating for veterans’ rights to use legal cannabis since 2014. Founded in the San Francisco Bay Area by a Marine Corps veteran, the group works to help fellow veterans find access to cheap or even free medical cannabis. The project is also helping put pressure on the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to finally accept the fact that cannabis can effectively treat PTSD, chronic pain, and many other conditions commonly experienced by military service members.

Dozens of clinical studies have found that cannabis can treat symptoms of chronic pain as effectively as traditional opioid medications. Opioid prescriptions in Canada declined sharply after the country legalized cannabis, and US states that have enacted medical or adult-use legalization report similar results. Other studies have found that opioid abuse and overdose deaths decline wherever cannabis is legal. The research on cannabis and PTSD is less conclusive, but a 2019 study found that PTSD patients who did not use cannabis were 66% less likely to consider suicide than patients who did.

But despite the preponderance of evidence, the VA still refuses to accept that cannabis has any medicinal value. The department prohibits its doctors from recommending medical cannabis to their patients or helping them obtain it. Instead, the agency’s doctors continue to prescribe opioids, benzodiazepines, and other highly addictive drugs. The VA has even denied home loans to veterans who get jobs in the legal cannabis industry and prohibits its own employees from using cannabis for any reason.

Many other veterans rights groups, including the national Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion, are demanding that the VA department grant veterans the right to use medical cannabis. Lawmakers have also launched dozens of bills and amendments that aim to grant veterans access to medical cannabis. None of these legislative attempts have become law, though, and the VA largely continues to ignore the mounting public pressure to update its antiquated cannabis policies.

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