According to the Washington Post, the Veterans Affairs Department has reversed its policy of denying pain medication to patients who test positive for marijuana. Of course, this only applies to patients who use medical marijuana in states that have legalized the drug’s medicinal use. Other veterans who test positive for cannabis—regardless of their reasons for using, regardless of the level of their discomfort—can still be forced to suffer needlessly by the very government they once served.
Apparently, anti-pot videos and slogans weren’t achieving the desired results, so they decided to up the ante with a little agony.
As evidenced by the VA turnaround, its “no pain meds for potheads” policy appears to be punitive, with no underlying medical contraindications. As in all medical facilities, patients at the VA are routinely screened for potential drug interaction.
And no, cannabis is no substitute for Vicodin when it comes to pain.
In a letter to Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, Dr. Robert A. Petzel, the VA’s undersecretary for health, wrote, “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” in a VA facility.” What a guy.
For the moment, forget the vindictiveness and jaw-dropping cruelty of intentionally withholding needed pain medication from anyone—let alone from those who put their lives on the line for us—and focus on the absurdity-begets-absurdity nature of marijuana prohibition.
[do not attempt to read the following sentence while high] In essence, an arm of the federal government has now legitimized an illegitimate substance where (and only where) the substance has become legitimate.
As a number of states contemplate decriminalizing marijuana use and personal possession, the VA move is a welcome, though half-baked governmental nudge in the right direction. However, until Congress drops its “tough on drugs” vote mongering and brings common sense to marijuana legislation, 25 million regular users (drugscience.org) and countless social tokers will continue to live in legal limbo–quasi-criminals caught between states’ rights and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
In November, we Californians, smokers and non-smokers alike, will have a chance to send a powerful message to our feckless leaders with Proposition 19. Sure, the feds would still be able to make life miserable for pot users, but Prop 19’s passage would clue politicians in to two salient facts: We’ve had enough and we vote.