A Marine Corps. veteran who applied for a motorized wheelchair said his claim was denied because of his medical marijuana use.
Ron Hudson, 59, of Mayfield Heights served as a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps for six years beginning in 1974. He was injured while serving in Lebanon and later became wheelchair-bound due to muscular and nerve issues that make walking very difficult.
Hudson said he was prescribed several painkillers to handle his symptoms but nothing was effective until he tried medical marijuana. He later qualified for a medical marijuana card in Michigan.
Hudson has been using a manual wheelchair for nearly a decade. He began looking into a power wheelchair after extended trips and large inclines started becoming a challenge.
“There are just some things in a wheelchair that without a motorized chair there’s not any possibility for me to enjoy it alongside my family,” Hudson said. But Hudson’s claim for a motorized wheelchair was denied after he tested positive for medical marijuana.
A spokesperson for the Cleveland VA Medical center said their policy states that if a veteran has used illicit drugs or abused alcohol within the last six months they are denied powered mobility due to safety risks while operating the equipment.
The spokesperson told News 5 that they have no record of denying a patient powered mobility due to a prescribed medication use or a prescription for medical marijuana.
Prescribed medication use can include opiates that are prescribed for pain, a spokesperson said.
But legal expert David Patton argues that the policy is inconsistent.
He said regular use of prescribed opiates can lead to the same level of impairment as medicinal marijuana in many cases.
“It makes legal sense but it makes absolutely no scientific sense,” Patton said.
While medical marijuana is legal in several states and in the process of becoming legal in Ohio, on a federal level it is still considered an illicit drug.
He said the policy makers and the attorneys at the Veterans Administration are being highly risk averse.
But Patton disagrees that a veteran who tests positive for medical marijuana is a safety risk in a motorized wheelchair.
“I think that on its face its ridiculous,” he said.
The VA said that if a veteran can provide six months of negative screenings, he or she will be reconsidered for powered mobility if they meet the other criteria.
After this story aired on News 5 on Feb. 24, at least ten different people contacted the station with offers to donate power wheelchairs to Ron Hudson, free of charge.
Kevin Kocher, who owns Chair Doctor LLC in Canton offered to outfit Hudson with a brand new scooter.
An Air Force veteran himself, Kocher said Hudson’s story touched him.
“Something about it didn’t sit well with me so here we are to try to help him so he can get on with his life,” Kocher said.
Now Hudson is working to find homes of needy veterans for the other donations.
The local Veterans of Foreign Wars Chapter and the Paralyzed Veterans of America Chapter are helping him connect.