VA Directive on Medical Marijuana; Vets using medical cannabis won’t be denied benefits

WASHINGTON DC – Today, in a historic move, the Under Secretary of Health at the Department of Veterans affairs, Robert E. Pezel, M.D., issued Directive 2010-035, providing clarification and guidance on access to and the use of medical marijuana by Veteran patients.

The directive states; “patients participating in state medical marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services.”

Although the directive prohibits VA doctors from actually recommending or prescribing the use of medical marijuana, Veteran patients now can, participate in the department’s substance abuse programs, pain control programs, and other clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals, without the fear of being denied services.

The directive follows a letter sent to Michael Kravitz of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access (VMMA), in which Dr. Petzel wrote, “lf a veteran obtains and uses medical marijuana in a manner consistent with state law, testing positive for marijuana would not preclude the Veteran from receiving opioids for pain management in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility. The Veteran would need to inform his provider of the use of medical marijuana, and of any other non-VA prescribed medications he or she is taking to ensure that all medications, including opioids, are prescribed in a safe manner”.

Michael Kravitz is the executive director of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access (VMMA) an advocacy group “committed to protecting the rights of veteran patients and health care professionals by advocating for safe and legal access to marijuana (cannabis) for all appropriate therapeutic uses and to encourage research on marijuana as a treatment alternative” www.veteransformedicalmarijuana.org

Mr. Kravitz has been at the forefront of the struggle for veterans’ access to medical marijuana and has requested numerous times, clarification from the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) on their policy regarding the practice of prescribing opioid therapy for pain management for veterans who provide documentation of the use of medical marijuana in accordance with state law.
This directive signals a first step that may lead to a serious and lasting change in our federal medical marijuana policy, one that actually protects patient’s rights and ensures safe access.

San Diego Americans for Safe Access
www.safeaccesssd.com | www.safeaccessnow.org

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