A West Hollywood medical marijuana dispensary announced this week that it provides free cannabis to military veterans with medical marijuana cards and also participates in a range of community service activities.
Since opening in 2003, Zen Healing has worked on behalf of several charitable causes. From feeding the homeless to raising funds for HIV/AIDS charities and the marriage equality movement, the dispensary's founder Andrew Kramer and employees regularly have put their money and time toward giving back to the community.
Zen Healing's latest philanthropic move came in the form of its newly launched Veteran Patient Program. Medical marijuana patients who show proof of military service receive a free glass container with a quarter-ounce of high-quality cannabis every three months.
"Sure they're happy to get some medicine for free, but I think more than the dollars that they've saved it's a sense of 'wow, you're recognizing me, you're doing something for me,'" Kramer said. "I think that's all a lot of them want, is a little show of appreciation."
Kramer said he decided to start the veterans promotion after witnessing the effects of post traumatic stress disorder on returning soldiers who were his friends and relatives. He saw firsthand the stubborn anxiety that PTSD sufferers experience, as well as cannabis' healing qualities for this particular ailment.
"Once they get into that negative thought process, a pretty downward spiral, at least until they medicate it's very hard to pull out of," Kramer said.
Zen Healing works with California Vet Meds—an organization that assists veterans in obtaining medical marijuana and other types health care not available through the VA system—to provide the dispensary's Veteran Patients Program, Kramer said.
Other Zen Healing philanthropic endeavors include feeding the homeless since 2006 via a weekly barbecue at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Hollywood as well as raising money for Equality California, a same-sex marriage advocacy group, and Being Alive, an organization that helps people living with HIV/AIDS.
According to the dispensary's website, its "members come from all walks of life and suffer from various illnesses and diseases including AIDS/HIV, Cancer, Glaucoma, Multiple Sclerosis, Scleroderma, Chronic Pain, Nausea, Anxiety, Seizure Disorder Insomnia, eating disorders and Crohn’s Disease."