Veterans Administration to Allow Medical Marijuana Use

Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Americans for Safe Access

Over the last few years there have been a large number of veterans coming home from foreign wars with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, serious injuries, and a slew of other ailments. A lot of them have chosen to use medical marijuana to alleviate many of their symptoms and have found it to be a very effective treatment.

Veterans, who settle in states where cannabis is a legal medicine have ran into serious hurdles with their Veterans Administration (VA) doctors including being denied pain medication in cases where they use cannabis and tell their doctor’s about it.

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.

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

On July 6, 2010, Dr. Robert A. Petzel of the VHA finally responded to the many letters and calls for clarification from Mr. Kravitz. For the first time in decades, the VHA seems to be shifting their policy from zero tolerance for medical cannabis towards supporting using cannabis as a medicine in states where it is legal.

Mr. 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”.

In a New York Times Article titled “V.A. Easing Rules for Users of Medical Marijuana”, Dan Frosch wrote that a VA “department directive, expected to take effect next week, resolves the conflict in veterans facilities between federal law, which outlaws marijuana, and the 14 states that allow medicinal use of the drug, effectively deferring to the states”.

In the same article, Mr. Frosch quoted Dr. Robert Jesse the principal deputy under secretary for health in the veterans department as saying “when states start legalizing marijuana we are put in a bit of a unique position because as a federal agency, we are beholden to federal law…we didn’t want patients who were legally using marijuana to be administratively denied access to pain management programs, the policy will not permit department doctors to prescribe marijuana. But it will address the concern of many patients who use the drug that they could lose access to their prescription pain medication if caught”.

Eugene Davidovich of San Diego Americans for Safe Access, a veteran and medical marijuana patient said “this is a pivotal moment veterans, through the hard work of folks like Michael Kravitz, veterans who have in some cases paid very dearly for their country, will not have to hide and conceal the fact that cannabis helps them, they should now be able to openly discuss their conditions and treatments with their doctors. We are hoping that this is one of the first steps in creating a serious and lasting change in our federal medical marijuana policy, one that actually protects patient’s rights and ensures access”.

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Letter from the VA: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/Undersecretary-Jun6.pdf

For more information on VMMA visit: www.veteransformedicalmarijuana.org

NY Times Article: V.A. Easing Rules for Users of Medical Marijuana

Join ASA www.safeaccessnow.org

San Diego ASA – www.safeaccesssd.com

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