V.A. Okays Medical Marijuana For Veterans In 14 States & D.C.

Even though more than a dozen states and Washingon, D.C., continue to square off with the federal government regarding the legality of medical marijuana, the folks at the Veterans Affairs Dept. has decided not to penalize veterans who use the drug in states where its permitted for medicinal use.

Until now, vets who admit to or who are found to be using marijuana — even when prescribed by a physician — could be denied pain medication because the federal government still considers it an illegal drug.

So while the VA’s revised rules do not allow VA doctors to prescribe marijuana, it does clarify that VA clinics in the 14 states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington (New Jersey will be added to this list in 2011) — and Washington, D.C. will permit patients to use marijuana if it’s prescribed by a physician.

A rep for Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access says that the previous policy had forced vets to choose between medical marijuana and seeking VA medical care:

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

In a statement regarding its decision, the VA makes clear that, while marijuana use no longer necessarily leads to a denial of pain medications, VA doctors can still not prescribe the meds if they foresee a negative interaction:

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… The discretion to prescribe, or not prescribe, opioids in conjunction with medical marijuana, should be determined on clinical grounds.

VA OKs Medical marijuana for Washington vets [SeattlePI.com]