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Update, 4:35 p.m.: Colorado Springs-based Cannabis Science has released a statement, supporting the V.A.'s decision:
"We see this announcement as a validation of our strategy of focusing on helping disabled vets suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and other problems," says CEO Dr. Robert Melamede. "Nonetheless, it is shocking to think that disabled veterans in states without medical marijuana laws can still be denied 'access to prescribed pain medications in a Veterans Affairs facility.' That is tantamount to torture and good medicine and basic human decency do not change from state to state."
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The New York Times is reporting that the Department of Veterans Affairs will allow patients being treated in its facilities to use medicinal cannabis, if it's legal in that state.
The policy, expected to take effect this week, will not allow department doctors to prescribe the drug, but will protect using veterans, who otherwise risk losing access to prescribed medication, from doing so.
Under department rules, veterans can be denied pain medications if they are found to be using illegal drugs. Until now, the department had no written exception for medical marijuana.
This has led many patients to distrust their doctors, veterans say. With doctors and patients pressing the veterans department for formal guidance, agency officials began drafting a policy last fall.
“When states start legalizing marijuana we are put in a bit of a unique position because as a federal agency, we are beholden to federal law,” said Dr. Robert Jesse, the principal deputy under secretary for health in the veterans department.
At the same time, Dr. Jesse said, “We didn’t want patients who were legally using marijuana to be administratively denied access to pain management programs.”
Below is a 2007 video from ex-Marine Drew Carey advocating for marijuana as medication for veterans. He tools around California, showing the inside of some medical marijuana centers, and interviews Americans for Safe Access executive director Steph Sherer.