Veterans Opioid and Suicide Crises Focus of Rolling Thunder Events at Local Harley-Davidson Dealership

 Veterans Cannabis Project to Join Harley-Davidson of Washington, D.C. in Hosting Thousands of Veterans, Bikers from Across U.S

With an estimated one million bikers converging on the nation’s capital Memorial Day Weekend for the final Rolling Thunder Run, veterans advocates and Harley-Davidson of Washington, D.C. are teaming up to raise awareness of the opioid and suicide crises that are disproportionately impacting veterans by hosting a free, all-day concert featuring Grammy Nominee Montgomery Gentry as the headlining act.

The event will rally grassroots support to urge Congress to change federal law so veterans who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for their healthcare can have legal access to medical cannabis as a treatment option for chronic pain, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and for other conditions VA physicians and their patients believe medical cannabis could treat.  Current federal law categorizes cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, which bars VA physicians, as federal employees, from recommending it.

“Our veterans are suffering and dying needlessly, and it’s time they’re treated with the respect and compassion they deserve for the sacrifices they’ve made,” said Doug Distaso, executive director of Veterans Cannabis Project.  “Veterans overwhelmingly want access to medical cannabis because many of them have seen it save lives and research backs that up.  It’s just wrong for the federal government to deny veterans this treatment option and it’s time for Congress to change the law.” 

A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate.” 

Veterans suffer chronic severe pain at rates disproportionately higher than their civilian counterparts – roughly 40 percent higher, according to the National Institutes of Health – helping to explain why the opioid crisis has hit veterans at a rate two times the national average.

“Congress could literally save veterans lives by giving the nine million veterans who rely on the VA for their healthcare equal access to medical cannabis,” said Distaso.  “We know that chronic pain and PTSD are two major contributing factors to veteran suicides, and we know that medical cannabis can be a much safer and even more effective treatment than the cocktail of pills the VA often prescribes us.”

According to the VA, upward of 20 percent of the 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience post-traumatic stress or depression.  And on average, 20 veterans commit suicide every day.

“We are proud to bring together thousands of bikers from across the country in support of our veterans and to call for changes in the law to save veterans lives,” said Brett Tekavec, Owner of Harley-Davidson of Washington, D.C.  “Rolling Thunder and the Harley community are all about supporting our veterans and their families, so this event is a great cause and a natural fit.”

The Rolling Thunder Open House kicks off Friday, May 24th from 3pm-8pm with a kickoff bike night and a police escorted ride to the Candlelight Vigil.  Then Saturday, May 25th events start up again at 11:00 a.m. with free food and live musical performances all day.  Festivities will take place at Harley-Davidson of Washington, D.C., the official dealership of Rolling Thunder, located at 9407 Livingston Road, Fort Washington, MD.  For more information, please visit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 21, 2019 // CONTACT: David White - [email protected]