New York: Senate Passes Bill Allowing Patients With PTSD Access to Medical Cannabis
By Michael Bachara
A bipartisan proposal to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for New York’s medical cannabis program has received final approval from state lawmakers and is headed to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Senate passed S 5629 on Tuesday (50-13), and the Assembly version, A 7006, received overwhelming approval in May (131-8).
S 5629 was introduced by Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) with a bipartisan coalition of seven co-sponsors, including Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), who previously opposed medical marijuana legislation. A second bill, A 7006, was introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried (D-Manhattan) with bipartisan support.
“Patients in New York State should have the option to try what works for them,” Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), the bill's sponsor, told the The Daily News.
“State lawmakers are standing up for thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering from PTSD and might benefit from medical marijuana,” said Kate Bell, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We hope Gov. Cuomo will do the same and sign this important legislation. With a single swipe of his pen, he can help countless people find relief.”
“Military veterans, first responders, and victims who have survived assault all deserve society’s respect and the best available treatments; they should not have to abandon their homes and move to another state in order to seek access to medical marijuana,” said Michael Krawitz, Executive Director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access. “This is compassionate and commonsense legislation that is widely supported by the public as well as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.”
Twenty-six of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs allow patients with PTSD to qualify. In one of the states that do not, Alaska, marijuana is legal and regulated for adults 21 and older. Bills to add PTSD to state medical marijuana programs have been approved and signed into law in Colorado and Vermont this year. Legislation to add PTSD has also been approved in both chambers of the New Hampshire Legislature and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.
“In the past year, 11 more states have approved allowing trauma survivors to use cannabis for PTSD. Now only three medical cannabis states exclude PTSD patients,” Bell said. “Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and his colleagues should be commended for addressing the needs of New York residents who are dealing with this terrible condition, including our veterans. By signing this legislation, Gov. Cuomo can ensure New Yorkers don’t get left behind.”
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, said Gov. Cuomo will review the legislation.
Nationally, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has suggested the VA will look into studying what effects medical marijuana is having on veterans in states where it's legal.
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