Medical marijuana to be OK in some VA clinics

July 24, 2010 By HOPE YEN , Associated Press Writer
This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows marijuana plants in Seattle. Patients treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics will be able to use medical marijuana in the 14 states where it's legal, according to new federal guidelines. The directive from the Veterans Affairs Department in the coming week is intended to clarify current policy that says veterans can be denied pain medication if they use illegal drugs. Veterans groups have complained for years that this could bar veterans from VA benefits if they were caught using medical marijuana. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(AP) -- Patients treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics will be able to use medical marijuana in the 14 states where it's legal, according to new federal guidelines.

The directive from the Veterans Affairs Department in the coming week is intended to clarify current policy that says veterans can be denied if they use . Veterans groups have complained for years that this could bar veterans from VA benefits if they were caught using .

The new guidance does not authorize VA doctors to begin prescribing medical marijuana, which is considered an illegal drug under federal law. But it will now make clear that in the 14 states where state and federal law are in conflict, VA clinics generally will allow the use of medical marijuana for veterans already taking it under other clinicians.

"For years, there have been veterans coming back from the Iraq war who needed medical marijuana and had to decide whether they were willing to cut down on their VA medications," John Targowski, a legal adviser to the group Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, which worked with the VA on the issue.

Targowski in an interview Saturday said that confusion over the government's policy might have led some veterans to distrust their doctors or avoid the VA system.

Dr. Robert A. Petzel, the VA's undersecretary for health, sent a letter to Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access this month that spells out the department's policy. The guidelines will be distributed to the VA's 900 care facilities around the country in the next week.

Petzel makes clear that a VA doctor could reserve the right to modify a veteran's treatment plan if there were risks of a bad interaction with other drugs.

"If 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 for " in a VA facility, Petzel wrote. "The discretion to prescribe, or not prescribe, opioids in conjunction with medical marijuana, should be determined on clinical grounds."

Opioids are narcotic painkillers, and include morphine, oxycodone and methadone.

Under the previous policy, local VA clinics in some of the 14 states, such as Michigan, had opted to allow the use of medical marijuana because there no rule explicitly prohibiting them from doing so.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 14 states and the District of Columbia with medical marijuana laws. They are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. New Jersey also recently passed a marijuana law, which is scheduled to be implemented next January.

More information: Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www.va.gov/
Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access: http://www.veteransformedicalmarijuana.org/

shares

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

Best of Last Year – The top Medical Xpress articles of 2016

December 23, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—It was a big year for research involving overall health issues, starting with a team led by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health who unearthed more evidence that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.