Kansas: Vietnam Veteran, 65, Denied Pain Pills After Testing Postive For Marijuana
By Steve Elliott
A nationwide argument between the Veterans Administration and groups which protect the rights of veterans emerged in Kansas on Tuesday.
The issue -- whether veterans should be denied prescription medications because they use marijuana for physical or emotional pain, even in states which allow marijuana use -- arose when a Vietnam veteran was denied his pain pills because he tested positive for pot, reports Tyler Carter at KSNT.
"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," said disabled Vietnam veteran Gary Dixon, 65. While in Vietnam, Dixon was exposed to Agent Orange.
"I hurt, and I hurt from something I got fighting for my country," Dixon said.
He now has Stage 4 lung cancer, apparently doesn't have much time left to live, and readily admits to smoking marijuana.
Dixon and his wife Debbie on Tuesday drove to Topeka from Fort Scott like they customarily do for Dixon's stroke group therapy and to pick up his pain medicine. But this time, he had to take a urine test and sign an opiate consent form.
"I said, if she was wanting to see if I still smoke marijuana, I said I do," said Dixon, who added he'd been using cannabis since 1972.
He takes 10 to 15 presription pills per day, but Tuesday afternoon he walked out of the VA hospital empty handed.
"If you take marijuana and you take pain medication these are two things that decreae your alertness," lamely offered Dr. Daniel Cline, chief of ambulance with the Kansas VA.
A growing number of veterans nationwide are being forced to sign "opiate consent forms" which claim negative effects of mixing pain pills and marijuana (cannabis actually decreases the amount of opiates needed, which results in fewer opiate overdose deaths).
Under VA guidelines, veterans can't get their prescriptions filled if they test positive for marijuana. "I have always had marijuana in my blood and will continue to have it in my blood," Dixon said unapologetically.
If Dixon quit pot, could have have his pain medicine back? "Everything is done on a case by case basis," Dr. Cline said. "So I can't say with 100 percent certainty."
Dixon said he'll continue using cannabis for his physical and emotional pain, and try to come up with $400 a month for his prescriptions.
Several veterans' rights groups are lobbying Congress to change the VA's policy in states which allow medical marijuana; Kansas, however, doesn't allow it.