Vietnam veteran denied pain pills after testing positive for marijuana

TOPEKA (KSNT) — A nationwide argument between the veterans’ administration and groups which represent the rights of veterans emerged in Topeka Tuesday.

That issue is whether veterans should be denied prescription medications because they use marijuana for physical or emotional pain, even in states which allow medical marijuana use.

We found out about it when a Vietnam veteran contacted KSNT News.

“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 Gary Dixon.

Gary Dixon is a 65-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran. While in Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange.

“I hurt, and I hurt from something I got fighting for my country,” says Dixon.

Now he’s got stage four lung cancer, doesn’t have much time left to live and readily admits to smoking marijuana.

Tuesday morning, Dixon and his wife Debbie drove up to Topeka from Fort Scott like they always do for Dixon’s stroke group therapy and to pick up his pain medicine. But, this time his visit went differently. 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.’” Dixon says.

Dixon takes 10 to 15 pills a day. Tuesday afternoon, he walked out of the VA empty handed.

“If you take marijuana and you take pain medication these are two things that decrease your alertness,” says Dr. Daniel Cline, Chief of Ambulance with the Kansas VA.

Dixon is the latest in the growing number of veterans caught in a nationwide change within the VA.

They are now required to sign an “opiate consent” form, which outlines the negative effect of mixing pain killers and marijuana.

Under the new VA guidelines, vets can get their prescriptions filled or use marijuana, but can’t do both.

“I have always had marijuana in my blood and will continue to have it in my blood,” Dixon says.

If Dixon was to stop smoking, could he get his medication back?

“Everything is done on a case by case bases. So I can’t say that with 100 percent certainty,” says Cline.

Dixon says he’ll continue using the marijuana for the physical and emotional pain, and try to find the $400 a month for his prescriptions.

Currently, several veterans groups are lobbying congress to change the VA’s policy in states which allow the use of medical marijuana. That’s something Kansas has still rejected.

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