ALBANY, N.Y. – New York State lawmakers have signed off on a bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana treatment.
The legislation passed 50-13 in the Senate, weeks after it passed in the Assembly. It now goes to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who can sign the bill into law or veto it.
Senator Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, sponsored the bill. She said New York is one of the last states with a medical marijuana program to include PTSD.
“Right now, New York State is an outlier, and we shouldn’t be,” Savino said.
Kate Bell, legislative counsel with the Marijuana Policy Project, credited veterans groups in particular.
“Having the veterans groups in New York supporting this bill helped us to be able to increase support to pass it this year,” Bell said.
PTSD disproportionately affects veterans of our country’s most recent wars. Around 2.5 million Americans have been deployed to serve in the Middle East since 2001. Of those, 20 percent returned with PTSD, according to estimates. That means more than half a million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are dealing with this disorder.
Bell said medical cannabis can help them live easier lives.
“Sleep, handling night terrors and being able to get rest, which is very important to patients’ quality of life,” she explained from her office in Washington, D.C.
Although veterans can’t get medical marijuana through a VA hospital due to federal law, the new secretary of the Veterans Administration has signaled some support.
“There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Secretary David Shulkin recently said from the White House briefing room.
PTSD isn’t limited to only troops returning from the battlefield.
“If you have been a victim of domestic violence, rape, firefighters and police officers. There’s any number of people who have been exposed to a traumatic incident in their life,” said Senator Savino.
A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo would only say the bill is now under review. He has 30 days to act.