A report on The Washington Post shared that the Department of Veterans Affairs has released a directive that changes current policy regarding the use of medical marijuana among veterans.
Before the release of the new guidelines, veterans’ groups expressed concern that a veteran who is using medical marijuana may be denied pain medication by VA facilities. This concern extends to the possibility that veterans caught using medical marijuana may be barred from enjoying VA benefits.
In a letter addressed to the group Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, Dr. Robert A. Petzel, the VA’s undersecretary for health, clarified that in states where medical marijuana can be used legally, veterans who may be taking medical marijuana through other physicians will not be denied pain medication. Dr. Petzel wrote: “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 opioids for pain management [in a VA facility].”
Dr. Petzel clarifies further that a VA physician can choose to change a patient’s treatment plan should he or she feel that there is a risk for adverse interaction with other drugs. He also mentioned in his letter that “the discretion to prescribe, or not prescribe, opioids in conjunction with medical marijuana, should be determined on clinical grounds.”
The directive, however, does not allow VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.
The new guidelines apply to fourteen states where medical marijuana is legal, namely: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.