Jul 26, 2010 6:55 PM by Matt Stafford

V.A. opening up medical marijuana options for vets

K.C. Stark served five years in the Army, but now is back in Colorado and making a living as a dispensary owner in Colorado Springs.

When he served treatment with marijuana was something you didn't think about.

"You did fear that you could lose benefits," says Stark, a veteran and dispensary owner in Colorado Springs. "So there is a lot of hindrance from veterans to come out and actually try to use it."

With the growing number of soldiers coming home from war, Stark says he sees more and more trying the drug.

"They are risking it because it's helpful," Stark says. "They're coming out to use it not because they want to get high, but because they're trying to combat either emotional or physical pain."

For veterans with V.A. a claim, trying the drug has been largely off the table -- until recently.

This week the V.A. is expected to change a rule, barring vets from treatment for using illegal drugs -- including marijuana.

V.A. doctors won't write prescriptions for it, but vets won't be penalized for using it.

A letter from the V.A. to the organization Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access outlines the new upcoming regulations.

"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 Department of Veteran Affairs facility," Robert Petzel said in the June 6th letter.

Petzel says each patient's pain management will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

In the 14 states allowing the drug, vets will be able to give it a try. Stark says that's big for local vets.

"It does help with both the mental pain as well as with some of the physical pain," Stark says.

Beyond the new avenue of help this move should open up, stark feels it sends out a larger message for veteran healthcare.

"Not leaving anything off the table when helping vets is a good policy," says Stark.

A policy should be announced this week.

Watch for updates with the V.A. by clicking here.

You can find out more on Stark's work by clicking here.


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