New VA policy bolsters legal challenge on medical marijuana

Posted on July 28th, 2010 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

cannabisMedical marijuana patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed a legal brief July 28 in a Ninth Circuit case aiming to correct statements by the federal government that "marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." The ASA legal filing points to a policy directive issued last week by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), recognizing medical marijuana and distinguishing it from other illegal controlled substances. In its brief, ASA contends that the VHA directive bolsters advocates' arguments that cannabis does indeed have medical value.

In the July 22 policy directive, the VHA reversed its previous position and instructed VA physicians that "patients participating in state medical marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services." Department of Veterans Affairs Under-Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel also clarified in a July 6 letter to veteran advocate Michael Krawitz: "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... Standard pain management agreements should draw a clear distinction between the use of illegal drugs, and legal medical marijuana."

ASA has received numerous reports of veterans being denied pain medication for refusing to discontinue their use of medical marijuana. In many cases, the therapeutic use of marijuana had significantly diminished veterans' need for pharmaceutical medication.

ASA filed its lawsuit in February 2007, to correct the federal government's official position on medical marijuana (as stated in a 2006 Food and Drug Administration advisory). It appealed a district court decision in April 2008 to the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. ASA's lawsuit was preceded by an administrative petition filed in 2005 under the Data Quality Act, passed during the Clinton administration to ensure that the government bases its policy decisions on sound science and not politics.

According to Krawitz's group, Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, more than 100,000 veterans, or 27% of veterans treated by the VA, have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Based on reports received by ASA, PTSD is one of the most common conditions that veterans treat with medical marijuana. (ASA, July 28)

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