California medical marijuana patients can get free weed. Here's how
Just before noon on a sunny California Friday, a very pregnant-looking Charlene Modeste steps out of her L.A. home to meet a driver for the weed delivery service Eaze who hands off a bag containing more than $1,000 worth of cannabis products. But things aren't quite what they appear to be: Modeste hasn't paid a dime for the delivery, and she's very much not pregnant.
"What's happening with me is I have a chronic condition and it looks like I have a baby," Modeste explained. "But I'm one of those people that's pregnant — but not with child. I have uterine fibroids. I had surgery to remove them. Then they grew back."
Modeste, a medical marijuana patient who consumes about a gram of cannabis oil a day, receives the free-of-charge deliveries from Eaze every couple of months and calls the cost savings "incalculable."
That's because although cannabis has been a legally prescribed medicine in California for more than 25 years, recommended by doctors to manage a wide range of conditions from arthritis to seizures, its status as an illegal drug at the federal level means insurance companies won't foot the bill.
That's where the Eaze Compassion program and others like it across the state come into play, partnering with product-donating cannabis brands and nonprofit groups to offer no-cost products to medical marijuana patients in need. Modeste said she found out about Eaze's program after reaching out to Sacramento-based Dear Cannabis, an organization that helps coordinate compassionate cannabis deliveries; that group connected her with This Is Jane Project, an L.A. nonprofit that works with women and nonbinary survivors of trauma.
That latter group, one of Eaze Compassion's partner organizations, verified her eligibility and put the wheels in motion — literally in the case of Modeste's to-the-doorstep deliveries. (Criteria considered include income, medical diagnosis and need.)
Other groups that work with Eaze to coordinate compassionate deliveries include Bay Area Americans for Safe Access, Operation EVAC (which stands for Educating Veterans About Cannabis) and the veterans' support group Weed for Warriors Project.
Sean Kiernan, co-founder and chief executive of the Sacramento-based Weed for Warriors Project, explained that affordable access to weed can be the difference between life and death.
"For the veterans who are overdrinking," Kiernan said, "we found that when when cannabis was available, they drank less. So what we're seeing is where cannabis is available and accessible to our veteran community, we're seeing lower suicides, lower overdoses, lower domestic violence because alcohol makes you mad, right?"
Kiernan described the cost conundrum facing a 100% disabled U.S. military veteran who receives monthly compensation of just over $3,000. "If you're trying to substitute for opiates and for psych meds, you need a daily regimen. An eighth of an ounce [of] flower, that's basically three joints. If you want to smoke that morning, afternoon and evening for your medical regimen, that's about $40 an eighth after taxes. And that's not even high-end flower. Forty dollars times 30 [days] is $1,200" — or, as he pointed out, roughly 40% of that veteran's monthly income.
According to a representative for San Francisco-based Eaze, the company has delivered more than 100,000 donated THC-containing items since late 2019 and currently makes compassionate deliveries in the Greater Los Angeles area, San Jose, Sacramento and the Bay Area. Since Eaze relies on its partner organizations to vet perspective recipients, interested patients who live in those delivery areas should contact the groups directly. (You can find them in the list of resources below.)
Potentially qualifying medical marijuana patients who don't live in those delivery areas — or prefer to deal directly with a local (legal) dispensary — have options too. Since the passage of the Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act in 2019, which changed the law to allow cannabis products to be donated to those in need without the donor company paying a hefty state sales tax, cannabis brands and dispensaries across the state have teamed up to coordinate compassionate donations.
We've included a few notable ones in the list of resources below. However, the quickest way to find out if any given dispensary has a compassionate cannabis donation program is to check the shop's website — or, better yet, ask your budtender.