Challenge To Federal Medical Pot Policy Helped By V.A. Change


Graphic: LA Progressive

​Medical marijuana patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed an important legal brief on Wednesday to correct statements made 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 says that the VHA directive bolsters advocates’ arguments that marijuana does indeed have medical value.
“Recognition of marijuana’s therapeutic benefits by a federal agency makes it more difficult for the government to argue against marijuana’s medical value,” said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who filed the notice with the court.

Photo: ASA
Joe Elford, ASA: “The government’s reasons for maintaining an outdated and harmful position on medical marijuana are running out”

​”The government’s reasons for maintaining an outdated and harmful position on medical marijuana are running out,” Elford said.
In the July 22 policy directive, the VHA reversed its position that medical marijuana is no different than other banned controlled substances, and instructed VA physicians that “patients participating in state medical marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services.”
“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,” clarified Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel of the Department for Veterans Affairs in a July 6 letter (reproduced below) to veteran advocate Michael Krawitz.
“Standard pain management agreements should draw a clear distinction between the use of illegal drugs, and legal medical marijuana,” Petzel wrote in the letter.
ASA said it 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 has significantly reduced the need for harsh pharmaceutical medication.
ASA filed its lawsuit in February 2007 in an attempt to correct the governmenet’s position on medical marijuana.
After the challenge was denied by the U.S. District Court, ASA filed an appeal in April 2008 and is still awaiting a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
ASA’s lawsuit was preceded by an administrative petition filed in 2005 under the Data Quality Act, a law passed during the Clinton Administration to ensure that the government bases its policy decisions on sound science and not politics.
More than 100,000 veterans, or 27 percent of veterans treated by the VA, have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, an advocacy group headed by Krawitz.
Based on reports received by ASA, PTSD is one of the most common medical conditions that veterans treat using medical marijuana.

Letter Courtesy of Kemp LaMunyon Sr
Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel sent this letter on July 6 to Michael Krawitz of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access.