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Veteran Administration Clarifies Medical Marijuana Practices

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Washington, DC: The authorized use of medical marijuana by veterans should not be penalized by federal administrators or defined as 'illegal drug use,' according to a July letter issued by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, Under Secretary of Health.

The letter, from Under Secretary Robert Petzel, M.D. to Michael Krawitz, administrator for the group Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, states that a patient's use of medical cannabis is not sufficient cause to deny him or her access to prescribed pain medications in a Veterans Affairs facility.

It states: "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 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility. ... Standard pain management agreements should draw a clear distinction between the use of illegal drugs, and legal medical marijuana."

It continues: "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. ... The provider will take the use of medical marijuana into account in all prescribing decisions, just as the provider would for any other medication. This is a case-by-case decision, based upon the provider's judgment, and the needs of the patient."

Krawitz had contacted the agency after hearing several complaints from veterans who had been denied treatment at VA facilities because of their state-authorized use of medical cannabis.

For more information, please visit: http://www.veteransformedicalmarijuana.org/.



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