New law allows vets and others with PTSD to take part in New York’s medical marijuana program

Photo by Angela Matua/QNS

New York is looking to help veterans and others who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a new law — supported by a Queens lawmaker — has been signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo allowing them to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.

As the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security, state Senator Joseph Addabbo supported this new law now and during the 2017 legislative session.

PTSD is a condition where the patient develops a series of debilitating symptoms in response to witnessing or being part of a devastating event, whether on the battlefield, in an accident, as a victim of violent crime, or a host of other traumatic events.

“By making PTSD one of the qualifying conditions to gain access to the state’s medical marijuana program, we will be lending an important helping hand to those many veterans in New York who return home from service deeply troubled by their experiences,” Addabbo said. “In addition, this new law will aid others diagnosed with PTSD, including sexual assault victims, domestic violence survivors, first responders and others who have lived through highly traumatic events.”

According to the senator, some estimates say up to 19,000 New Yorkers diagnosed with PTSD could be eligible to be a part of the medical marijuana program when they do not respond effectively to other medications. Almost all of the other states with medical marijuana programs in place include PTSD as a qualifying condition.

“Research is demonstrating that PTSD is associated with a deficiency in the brain and nervous system that responds to the cannabinoids in marijuana,” Addabbo said. “Other treatments often prescribed for this condition bring with them significant and potentially dangerous side effects — like the risk of suicide and the development of diabetes – which are not associated with marijuana.”

Addabbo noted that federal restrictions are hindering the research of the efficacy of medical marijuana within the United States. However, studies from Canada and Mexico have produced positive results including reductions in nightmares, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, flashbacks and the use of other medications, the senator mentioned.

The senator urged veterans who believe they are struggling with PTSD to reach to the United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, where veterans should press 1, or visit https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/where-to-get-help.asp.

In New York State, veterans may also contact the State Division of Veterans’ Affairs at 1-888-838-7697 (VETSNYS) to get information and make an appointment with a benefits advisor.