VA Medical Marijuana Policy

Posted: July 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

More veterans are backing the fight that would include PTSD as a qualifying condition for legal medical marijuana programs in 17 states, according to a USA Today article [ ] . While some doctors and veterans disagree on the effectiveness of cannabis as PTSD treatment, the approval remains a complicated issue because it involves the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and potential federal oversight. The USA TODAY article quotes veterans who have gone through the tricky VA process of receiving and using medical marijuana for PTSD. In 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) formally allowed the use of medical marijuana by patients being treated in medical facilities located in states where the use of marijuana for medical purposes has been legalized. However, since the use of marijuana for any purpose – medical or otherwise – still remains illegal under federal law, VA doctors cannot recommend it for treatment. Despite this directive, however, there are still VA patients who choose to buy and ingest marijuana illegally, as opposed to signing up with state medical marijuana programs. Paula Pedene, a spokeswoman with the Arizona VA hospital, shared: “They live in a place that has passed this law, and it’s their choice to use it… The question is: How can we co-manage their care?”
Pedene shared further that the VA does not keep track of patients who reveal their participation in the medical marijuana program. They also do not report them to such federal agencies as the U.S. Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration, both of which do not support medical marijuana. In Arizona veterans are pushing for the inclusion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for theit state’s medical marijuana program. At this time, Arizona’s medical marijuana law only allows the use of pot for such debilitating conditions as chronic pain and cancer, among others. Dr. Sue Sisley, an internist in private practice and assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at the University of Arizona, shared that medical pot is effective for Veterans, but she also said: “It’s really uncharted territory for veterans and the VA… The VA has taken a position where they’re not going to terminate patients if they have a card, but the truth is that a lot of doctors have a strong bias against it — they believe they are just drug addicts.” [Source: Stars & Stripes & Blog articles 5 & 8 Jun 2012 ++]


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