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.
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.