The state of New York has been slowly improving their almost two-year-old medical marijuana program. When the state first legalized medical cannabis it was right away known for being one of – if not the strictest program of its kind in the country. Since then lawmakers have expanded the law, with previous additions like allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to recommend medical marijuana, and adding chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions.
The latest improvement to NY’s medical marijuana program was signed into law by Governor Cuomo on Veterans Day, allowing patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to qualify. The intention behind this addition to the list was to benefit veterans, as well as police officers, survivors of violence, crime and accidents. It was passed as a part of a larger bill which was focused on supporting both active military and veterans.
“Our veterans risked their lives in order to defend the ideals and principles that this nation was founded upon and it is our duty to do everything we can to support them when they return home,” Cuomo said.
New York marks the 28th state to allow post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Many veterans, all over the country, have used medical marijuana to combat PTSD – and there is even a government funded and approved study in the works to determine just how effective the plant is for this condition.
Unfortunately, the main group of people this legislation was meant to help – veterans – will have the hardest time gaining access to the medicine. Due to the fact that most veterans visit doctors through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a federally run program, those seeking medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option will need to find a different doctor – and pay out of pocket.
While Governor Cuomo stated that 19,000 New Yorkers could benefit from the addition of PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions, it will be easier for some than for others to obtain that recommendation.
The expansion of the program was the right move, and it will provide thousands more with safe and legal access to medical marijuana – but until the federal law catches up to state laws, it will continue to be cumbersome for patients, especially those like veterans who rely on government medical services, to access this much needed medicine.