Thursday, August 19, 2010
By Mike LaSalle
Department of Veterans Affairs Recognizes Medical Marijuana
On July 22, 2010 the Department of Veterans Affairs issued VHA DIRECTIVE 2010-035, specifically allowing VA patients the right to use Medical Marijuana without fear of federal interference. “Fourteen states have enacted laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana,” the Directive observes. “Medical conditions associated with the use of medical marijuana include, but are not limited to: glaucoma, chemotherapy induced nausea, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain.”
The new Directive does not allow VA doctors to prescribe Marijuana to their patients, but for the first time, a federal agency has acknowledged that Marijuana has medicinal applications, and pledged not to interfere with patients who have a doctor’s prescription in the 14 states where Marijuana is accepted under law.
This is a critical point, and one that should get everyone’s attention: Is Marijuana still a Schedule I drug?
To be a Schedule I drug, a substance must meet 3 qualifications:
- There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision, AND
- The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, AND
- The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
Item 2, the “No currently Accepted Medical Use” clause is clearly invalid across the 14 states where medical marijuana is permitted by law: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. By definition, in each of these states, Marijuana does indeed have a “currently accepted medical use.”
Finally, Item 3: Potential for Abuse. I submit that a rational adult might rightly conclude that many drugs — including alcohol and cigarettes — have a far higher potential for abuse than Cannabis. By the same token, given that at least 42% of the US population has tried Marijuana at least once, it is evident that Marijuana should not be classified or grouped together with drugs like heroin, cocaine or meth-amphetamines.
In order to be a considered a Schedule I drug, Marijuana must fit each of these three classifications.
But, on July 22, 2010, an agency of the U.S. Federal Government directed its medical staff to accept the fact that Marijuana has medical value in the states where it is legal.
According to the definition of Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, if a drug has any medical value, then it cannot be a Schedule I drug.
The precursor to this recent VA Directive may have been Gonzales v. Oregon, a 2006 Supreme Court decision — the first major case under Chief Justice John Roberts — wherein the Court held that state health care laws trump the power of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office to enforce federal drug laws.
In light of Gonzales v. Oregon, the VA’s acknowledgement that Marijuana has medical value now seems inevitable: for all practical purposes, Marijuana is no longer a Schedule I drug.
Primary Source PDF: DOJ Memorandum
- Medical Marijuana for Vets? (vabenefitblog.com)
- NYT, 20 OCT 2009: U.S. Won’t Prosecute in States That Allow Medical Marijuana
“People who use marijuana for medical purposes and those who distribute it to them should not face federal prosecution, provided they act according to state law, the Justice Department said Monday in a directive with far-reaching political and legal implications.”