Investigators: Vets seek alternative medicine through alternate - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Investigators: Vets seek alternative medicine through alternate health centers

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For veterans returning home, picking up where they left off is easier said than done. Most vets turn to the VA to help them readjust to their civilian lives, but the hospital is unable to provide them with a natural medicine, medical marijuana. 

"It can decrease the amount of sedatives, stop the opioids that they're on, and they get very symptomatic relief,” Huggins said.  

Dr. George Huggins has been practicing medicine for more than 50 years. He is currently a physician at Tumbleweeds Health Center where he sees many veterans who are addicted to prescription painkillers.

“They want to get off these addictive medicines that are not providing any real relief for their pain,” Huggins said.

The VA can't prescribe medical marijuana because it is a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level. Owner at Tumbleweeds, Kim Williams, said the DEA’s current stance on marijuana is not justified.

“I think the Schedule I classification does cannabis a great disservice,” Williams said. “It's up there with heroin and things like that that have no medical use."

In the past, congress has pushed to allow VA doctors to discuss and recommend medical marijuana as a treatment option with patients, but right now all they can do is send medical records to alternate health centers.

David Yrigoyen, the director at Natural Healing Care Center, said the VA got off to a rocky start when medical marijuana was first legalized in Arizona.

“When the program first started they were kicking a lot of patients who had their cards off of their pain management programs, but that stopped about a year into the medical marijuana program,” Yrigoyen said.

It's not hard for veterans to obtain a medical marijuana card with the proper paperwork, but many vets can't afford to go that route. 

“The fees are ridiculous, it's $150 without food stamps, and then there are no insurances that will cover it,” Yrigoyen said.  

The VA responded to our request for comment saying, "the VA will not provide use or conduct research with illegal substances regardless of state laws." The statement also said, "a veteran's decision to participate in a state marijuana program is a personal one, and he or she may continue to receive VA care."

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