A situation in Topeka, Kansas, illustrates an ongoing issue between the Department of Veterans Affairs and groups that support veterans. The dispute stems from whether veterans should be denied prescription medications if they use marijuana for physical or emotional pain in states that allow medical marijuana use.
Vietnam veteran Gary Dixon found himself in the middle of this debate, and he contacted KSNT News about it.
“I went in to get a refill on my pain medication and they refused to let me have it because I have marijuana in my blood," he told the news station. Dixon says he has used marijuana regularly since 1972.
Dixon, 65, is disabled. He was exposed to the toxic defoliant Agent Orange during his service in the Vietnam War.
“I hurt, and I hurt from something I got fighting for my country,” Dixon said.
Dixon has stage four lung cancer and does not have much time left to live. On Sept. 8, he and his wife Debbie drove to Topeka for Dixon’s stroke therapy group and to get his pain medicine. This time, the VA had him fill out an opiate consent form and take a urine test, reports WBAY.
“I said, 'If she was wanting to see if I still smoke marijuana, I said I do,’” said Dixon, who takes 10 to 15 pills daily but was unable to obtain his pills from the VA on Tuesday.
“I have always had marijuana in my blood and will continue to have it in my blood,” Dixon added.
Under new VA guidelines, vets fill out an "opiate consent form" which tells them the negative effects of mixing painkillers and marijuana. In states that allow medical marijuana, veterans can use either that or get their prescription, but not both.
Dixon says he will continue to smoke marijuana and try to find $400 for his monthly prescription.
The VA cannot recommend marijuana to patients and cannot take a vet’s benefits away for it, but they can “modify” the treatment and take away painkillers.
Michael Krawitz, president of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, told USA Today many veterans take the option of marijuana over prescription painkillers when made to choose.
In one case, Ryan Begin, a Marine, became jittery, unpredictable and reactive while on pills and transitioned over to medical marijuana. Begin’s doctor says the drug is safe and doesn’t lead to overdose.
Several veterans groups are lobbying Congress to change the VA’s policy.
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