Sean Kiernan, the president of the Weed for Warriors Project, makes no apologies for breaking the law to supply cannabis to veterans in need. The U.S. Army veteran turned to cannabis to treat his own symptoms of PTSD and understands that medical marijuana has the power to save lives. And, as the Veteran’s Administration recently revealed stark new data showing that 22 veterans a day died from suicide in 2014, he also implicitly understands that his cause grows more dire with each passing day. Founded in California in 2014, the WFWP now has both national and international ties with a mission to help veterans heal themselves from the traumas of war through cannabis, fellowship and community. We connected with Kiernan prior to a Jetty Extracts-sponsored event set to distribute medication to veterans in need and raise funds for the cause.
Why is the organization so important to veterans?
“It’s authentic and real. This is veterans helping veterans. Every single leader in this organization is also a patient. It can make for some pretty dysfunctional times, but if you are looking for a group who is on the front lines of the cannabis issue, the mental health issue, the criminal justice issue, or you want to understand the human costs of our endless wars, there isn’t another group out there doing what we do on the scale we are doing it. They don’t exist.”
What does the Weed for Warriors Project do to support veterans?
“We have chapters throughout the country and Australia that focus on the health and well being of our members. Each chapter becomes a support network for those veterans and their families. Each chapter is required to meet at a minimum of once a month. In states where cannabis is legal, we bring medicine to veterans free of charge by partnering with the industry to distribute meds that otherwise would be too expensive for these veterans. In states where cannabis is illegal, the groups are advocating for legalization while providing all the other functions to include networking with like minded veterans to sure each is getting the help they need.
“WFWP doesn’t stop there, we encourage our chapters to further the rehabilitation of these veterans by getting them involved with each other working to advance themselves by helping others. For example our Stockton community reached out to the homeless community in June and passed our sandwiches and medicine free of charge and that type of action brings purpose to many veterans that need some structure and purpose in their lives beyond their current situation. The single biggest healer that I have seen, is veterans helping their brothers and sisters and seeing they are not alone.”
How many veterans are members of the organization?
“We don’t keep official count, but its in the thousands if we just count those we give medicine to, who attend our chapter meetings regularly. If we are talking about veterans who are loosely affiliated in one way or another from meetings, to advocating on the political side, to being actively involved in the discussion of cannabis, you start to get into some pretty large numbers. Just on social media alone we are reaching anywhere from a half-a-million to over a million people per week who are following us per the numbers provided by google and other groups that measure the velocity and reach of one’s message.
“That is my job on the national side, to raise awareness and we don’t care how we do that, just that it’s effective and real. We don’t believe in sugar coating the reality of our situation for the benefit of those unwilling to face the cold reality this country has screwed over its veterans once again.”
How has cannabis played a role in your own recovery?
“Cannabis has given me a medicine that provides me with the solution to multiple issues such as sleep, anxiety, depression, and pain without the real side effects that the alternative, pharmaceuticals, would present, to include suicidal feelings of which I went through in 2011 as highlighted by ‘Weed 3’ and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I have experienced medical marijuana first hand, it is a lifesaver not only for me but for millions of people throughout this country and it’s a human and civil rights issue that needs to be addressed immediately because too many lives are being lost.”
Where are you currently based?
“Weed for Warriors was founded in San Jose, California, so the Bay Area will always be ground zero for the movement. Personally, I live in Vegas with my family recently having moved from San Diego, California. However, I am traveling most of them time, so I consider my home to be really with the awesome community of veterans who open their homes to me every where I go. I can’t remember the last time I slept at a hotel!”
What happened with your federal court case? Can you provide some background surrounding growing marijuana for other veterans?
“I shipped cannabis free of charge or at cost when I had to procure it to alleviate the suffering I am seeing daily throughout this country, I make no apologies for breaking the law. I did it, I accept the consequences and so I plead guilty in San Diego to felony possession of marijuana with intent to sell before we even got to a preliminary hearing. I was lucky to have the one judge who was an ex-public defender in all of San Diego County County, the rest being ex District Attorney’s, so the writing was on the wall, plead guilty get a few months electronic monitoring and probation or go to trial, or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, on the hope of acquittal under a new judge who was likely to be much more severe in sentencing if I was found guilty. In addition, they charged my wife for the purse purpose of holding that over my head to force me to settle and accept a guilty plea.
“There is nothing new in my experience, our judicial system is corrupted beyond imagination, the systemic issues are staggering and this affects the poor and working poor the most as they don’t have access to justice like those with money. Veterans happen to be in that demographic too often in this country. So ironically, those who fought for the rights of all of us, disproportionately have those rights denied them by the political class in this country.”
Tell us what you think. Do veterans deserve the right to treat themselves with medical marijuana?