VA Allows Medical Marijuana for Pain

Cal NORML confirmed on July 24, 2014 that the VA's policy remains in effect.

July 19, 2010 - The Veterans Health Administration has made it known that it will allow use of medical marijuana by VA patients on opiod therapy. This is good news for the many chronic pain patients who have been told that they must give up marijuana in order to continue on RX pain medications. Private pain clinics have been wrongly stampeded into disallowing medical marijuana on the bogus grounds that it is against federal law. The fact that the VA officially allows it should help debunk these fears as groundless. Also see: Medical Marijuana In VA Clinics OK'd In States Where It's Legal

See a copy of the VA letter.

See a copy of the VA's medical marijuana policy.

UPDATE: In July 2014, the House failed to pass an amendment ensuring VA doctors have the right to discuss medical marijuana with their patients; as federal employees they cannot recommend cannabis treatment. In March 2014, the federal government approved research on medical marijuana use for PTSD; however, Dr. Sue Sisley, who was conducting the research has been fired from the University of Arizona.

VA doctors prohibited from prescribing medical pot
By SUE MAJOR HOLMES
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 31, 2010; 4:10 AM
The Department of Veterans Affairs says it is developing a national policy, and the head of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access believes a VA policy allowing medical marijuana "is inevitable."

July 2, 2009 - The Veterans Administration will ignore marijuana drug screening for pain patients who have legal medical marijuana recommendations, under a new policy reported by VA Watchdog.

This is an important development, as NORML has received a flood of recent complaints from medical marijuana patients who have been denied treatment by pain clinics after testing positive for marijuana. Included have been MMJ patients who were receiving opiates from the same clinic for many years, but were suddenly drug tested and told that they must either give up MJ or lose their opiate prescriptions.

The upsurge in such incidents has been due to growing pressure on pain clinics to crack down on prescription opiate abuse and diversion by more intensive drug screening of patients. Although the opiate abuse problem has nothing to do with marijuana, and there is no legal requirement that clinics test for cannabinoids, many have been doing so anyway under the mistaken impression that they might be prosecuted for prescribing opiates to MMJ users. To our knowledge, not a single such prosecution has ever occurred.

On the contrary, recent studies show that cannabis is valuable for treating chronic pain, and in particular can be an effective adjunct to opiate therapy, reducing the need for opiates and other prescription drugs. There is accordingly no sound basis either medically or legally for denying treatment to chronic pain patients who test positive for medical marijuana. Hopefully, the new VA policy will help stem this perverse and misguided practice.

- D. Gieringer, Cal NORML

California NORML investigated reports from patients who were being drug-tested by their pain doctors, including attending The 2009 American Pain Society Convention in San Diego. In a report for the journal O'Shaughnessy's, CaNORML concludes: "The prejudice against marijuana has nothing to do with medical science, but rather with political and legal pressures to crack down on prescription drug use."


Medical marijuana use

Just don't admit (especially to any trick questions)that you are using medical marijuana at a VA hospital pain clinic. After over 10 years of VA supervised heavy opiate use for chronic pain caused by Agent Orange related peripheral neuropathy and diabetes, I have been given the choice of the opiates and constant drug testing, or the marijuana. So the only thing that has changed is that they can't cut me off from the rest of my medical and disability benefits...yet. This was at Pettis in Loma Linda, CA. Buzz 4-23-2011

cutting me off

july 15 DR.Bobby Chan at the v.a. hospotal at loma linda calif. made me sign a form stating that if i tested positive to cannabis use,i would lose my v.a. benefits.i have supplied dr. chan with the laws of calif. and the federal v a rulings . dr. chan tells me that his group called #22 is looking into the rewording of the federal guidelines therefore i must sign this v.a. form stating that i would lose my va benefits if i test positive again.I am a calif. med. marajuana patient here in riverside county.i also supplied my va dr.with my calif medical certificate. where do i go from here?? who do i call where do i go. by the way i am a fully disabled vet.from agent orange in cronic pain. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP IN ADVANCE.

VA's policy has not changed

I've just confirmed with the VA that their policy has not changed. Although the VA doesn't allow their doctors to write medical marijuana recommendations, their policy states:

"VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in State marijuana programs from also participating in VHA substance abuse programs, pain control programs, or other clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals. While patients participating in State marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services, the decisions to modify treatment plans in those situations need to be made by individual providers in partnership with their patients."

See email below:

From: VA Public Affairs
Date: July 24, 2014 10:17:08 AM PDT
To: "ellen@canorml.org"
Subject: VA policy on medical marijuana and pain medication

Per your question below, the VA’s policy has not changed. VA’s policy on this particular point can be found in paragraph 2.d in the following Directive:
http://www.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=2362

Thank you,

VA Office of Public Affairs