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For years patients at Veterans Affairs hospitals have been forced to deal with the ambiguity of medical marijuana laws in relation to their treatment. But under a new directive issued by the Veterans Affairs Department, patients treated at VA hospitals and clinics will be allowed to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, currently 14 states. For years Veterans have been concerned that if they use medical marijuana, they may be denied other pain medication.
Under the new guidance, VA doctors are not specifically authorized to prescribe medical marijuana, as it remains illegal under federal law. However, under the directive, VA clinics will not interfere with veterans who are already being prescribed medical marijuana from other clinics.
Dr. Robert Jesse, who works in the veterans department as principal deputy under secretary for health, said that "When states start legalizing marijuana we are put in a bit of a unique position because as a federal agency, we are beholden to federal law." The new directive is designed to reconcile this dilemma.
The move is part of what appears to be a continuing shift regarding medical marijuana laws in the United States. More states are legalizing it for medical purposes. California is set to vote on legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes as well. And while the Obama administration has not been an advocate of marijuana, they have stated that the justice department is not going to go after dispensaries that comply with state medical marijuana laws.
Laura Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department added, "What we have said in the past, and what we have said for a while, is that we are going to focus our federal resources on large scale drug traffickers ... We are not going to focus on individual cancer patients or something of the like."