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Veteran Denied Pain Pills for Testing Positive for Cannabis

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Veteran Denied Pain Pills for Testing Positive for Cannabis

A veteran of the Vietnam War was denied pain medication just last week because he tested positive for cannabis.

Gary Dixon, a 65-year-old disabled vet who has experienced decades of health problems after being exposed to Agent Orange, was told by his doctor at the Veterans Administration (VA) that he could no longer receive painkillers because a drug test determined that he had cannabis in his system.

According to a report from KSNT News, Dixon has been smoking marijuana since 1972 in order to deal with physical and mental trauma he endured while serving in Vietnam. However, he also takes around 15 pharmaceutical drugs per day in order to better manage some of the more severe pain. That all came to a screeching halt when the VA hospital in Topeka, Kansas refused to refill his prescription based on a positive drug screen for cannabis.

“If you take marijuana and you take pain medication these are two things that decrease your alertness,” explained Dr. Daniel Cline of the Kansas VA.

MORE: Read about how cannabis saved one veteran’s life

Unfortunately, many veterans across the nation are getting caught up in the new policy update dealing with veterans and the use of medical cannabis. The latest changes to the VA guidelines suggest that it is perfectly acceptable for patients to use medical marijuana. The trade off on this deal, however, is that they are forced to sign an “opiate consent” form that confirms their understanding of the negative consequences that can come from using cannabis and prescription painkillers simultaneously. Veterans are then advised that while they are allowed to use medical marijuana, they cannot smoke weed and expect to still receive pain medication.

Because of this amendment to the rules, Dixon, not unlike other veterans all over the country going through similar situations, must forfeit his prescription privileges for choosing medical cannabis. The VA is apparently accounting for this new policy by forcing veterans to submit to regular urine screens. Depending on the outcome, no matter if the patient resides in a legal medical marijuana state or not, they could be forced to leave the VA without the pain medications they have grown accustomed to taking on a daily basis.

That’s exactly what happened to Dixon, who says that he will now have to come up with an extra $400 a month to afford his prescriptions through a physician outside the VA.

The issue of allowing veterans to use medical marijuana is a drum that has been beaten quite extensively over the past couple of years. Yet, lawmakers sitting on Capitol Hill do not seem to sympathize with the concept of allowing people who have risked their lives for the benefit of our country to have access to whatever treatment option they want to make them comfortable and functional in their daily lives. Instead, the voice heard from Washington, D.C. suggests there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that cannabis has the power to treat medical conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or chronic pain. In the meantime, 20-22 veterans a day are committing suicide because they have come to their wits end with the depression and night terrors and the psychosis that comes from self medicating with highly-addictive pharmaceuticals is just fuel to the fire.

At this point, it is important to understand that these discrepancies between federal and state marijuana laws are destined to continue until a significant level of nationwide reform is put into place. Until then, there will exist no legal stability for veterans and other medical marijuana patients seeking an effective, natural treatment for whatever ails them.

Are you a veteran that uses cannabis? Share your story in the comments.



  1. Bill

    June 23, 2019 at 9:24 am

    As a Vietnam veteran I receive my healthcare through the VA. I was told by one VA provider who is no longer at my clinic that I could not renew my tramadol if I tested positive for marijuana BUT if I tested negative it could be re-instated. Another provider, new to my clinic, said since I tested positive twice I will be forever denied my pain meds even if I quit smoking pot and tested negative. I asked for another urine test to be authorized since I quit over a month ago. The test has been ordered but the new doc said it won’t make a difference. I was NOT told about the 2 strikes and you’re out policy after the first test. I need the tramadol (previously Vicodin) more than I need the weed. Can anyone clear this up for me? Which provider is right?

  2. Isabel Papp

    February 1, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    I am a female Veteran and have been denied my pain meds after being successfully functional for 8 years on pain management. I submitted a letter of complaint to the Hospital Director at VA Palo Alto, CA at the care I received at her Chronic Women’s Pain Clinic after only 1 visit. The Dr. refused to call me, e mail me, with any follow up treatment plan. Even after 9 months and patient advocates, nothing. A visit to a 2nd chronic pain Clinic resulted in a good pain treatment plan, until he started discussing the plan with The Health Care Team and I learned of the inflammatory uncooperative notes that were placed in my chart. I have been asked to leave the VAHC-I am 100% SC. At this point, I don’t know what to do. I firmly believe Cannabis and Opioids can alleviate pain/anxiety.

  3. Marcus Allred

    January 29, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I am a disabled veteran with Gulf War Illness. I deal with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, sleep issues with vivid night terrors, skin issues, repeated bacterial infections that causes abscesses, cognitive issues, depression, anxiety and a host of other issues. I have been fighting for compensation and am teetering on homelessness since my conditions progressed to a point where I can no longer work. I tried marijuana which helped way more than any of the poisonous medications they have been providing. Recently because I have been taking hydrocodone to help deal with my pain I was tested and found to have THC in my system. Because of this they are refusing to refill this medication unless I sign a contract and submit to regular drug tests. I barely was using marijuana because I knew the va was so against it. I just used it when I absolutely could not take the pain any longer or if I had nights that I could not sleep. I know if they would work with me I could eventually eliminate some if not all of the nasty prescriptions that have so many awful side effects. I can not afford to use marijuana on a regular basis though since I can not get the va to award me the appropriate disability ratings. I can barely afford one meal a day. So I can not have them refuse me medication so I am being forced to comply to their unethical policy knowing that I am being denied the only medication that would provide any real relief and quality of life. It really makes me angry that veterans are being forced to submit to lower standards of care not only in regards to medical marijuana use but all of VA care is sub standard. The VA should be shut down since they do not try to heal, they only try to cover up and deny. Just look at what they did to Vietnam Vets…. this is their standard operating procedure proven time and again historically. We need to not just be fighting so we can use medical marijuana to improve our quality of life, we should be fighting to have the whole VA system shut down before they kill more veterans with their standards of “care”.

  4. Wild Cherry Gary

    December 8, 2015 at 6:27 am

    I am a 66 year old Air Force Viet Nam Vet . I am rated 100 percent disabled by the VA for exposure to Agent Orange. I have Advanced Prostate Cancer and Heart Disease. I do not have any Cancer pain YET but I have severe pain in my right leg and ankle caused by removing
    my artery during by-pass surgery performed by the VA. I have had a script for Vicodin from the VA for 8 years I took three of these a day to control my leg pain. I was always conscientious about taking my pain Meds and very seldom took more than 3 a day. I have also had the Michigan Medical Marijuana Card for 4 years. I DO NOT use Marijuana all day. I found that using Marijuana at night helps me sleep much better and often when I used Marijuana I only needed 2 pain pills that day. I also believe that Marijuana has helped me cope with knowing I am probably going to die from Prostate Cancer. It puts me in a better mood. 3 months ago I was ordered by my VA PCP to take a urine test for drugs ( including Marijuana ) and I refused the drug test because I knew I wouldn’t pass it. I was immediately told they were jerking my
    Vicodin and they were giving me Tramadol which aren’t great but are better than nothing. Last week I got a phone call from my VA PCP ( she had her assistant do it) and I was told I couldn’t get any more Tramadol either. I went to my Patient Advocate who told me Marijuana has no medical value ( yeah, right !) . So, now I’m going to have to deal with the mental and financial stress of finding Pain Medication outside the VA. I don’t know what else to say except this is complete Bullshit and nothing more than a continuation of the War on Drugs. IT IS MY PAIN PUNISHMENT FOR SMOKING MARIJUANA !

  5. bob frier

    October 7, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    I just returned from Oregon where I received and have a medical marijuana card and went to my first V.A. doctor appt. and was denied my pain killer prescription because my tests were positive for marijuana. In Oregon I had no problems getting my pain killers and there as well as Texas I had informed them that I used cannabis for health reasons to help with pain and other symptoms. Don’t know what I will do now.

    • bob frier

      October 7, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      I just returned from Oregon where I received and have a medical marijuana card and went to my first V.A. doctor appt. and was denied my pain killer prescription because my tests were positive for marijuana. In Oregon I had no problems getting my pain killers and there as well as Texas I had informed them that I used cannabis for health reasons to help with pain and other symptoms. Don’t know what I will do now. I am currenty in Texas where I have been receiving pain medication and have been for several years and have always told my doctor about my cannabis use.

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