Veterans can use medical marijuana

Veterans Affairs Department opinion on Medical Marijuana

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.

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 District of Columbia and 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 said Saturday that confusion over the government’s policy might have led some veterans to distrust their doctors or avoid the VA system.

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

 

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