New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo yesterday signed a bill into law permitting those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to access legal medical cannabis. It was particularly symbolic that the bill was signed on Veterans’ Day, since many battle-scarred veterans suffer from PTSD. Most states with medical cannabis permit its use to treat PTSD. New York remains one of the most restrictive states in limiting what ailments trigger the right to obtain this treatment.
The PTSD bill was one of five that Cuomo signed yesterday aimed to help veterans. He did not specifically comment on the PTSD bill in his press release. But the release did note that it appears as many as 19,000 New Yorkers with PTSD could benefit from this treatment. The release further acknowledged that PTSD victims include “military veterans, police officers and fire fighters, as well as survivors of domestic violence, rape, violent crime, and accidents.” Here in NY, I know folks who would want to add “survivors of terrorist attacks.”
The irony is that those same veterans cannot access medical cannabis through the free VA hospital system as long as cannabis use remains a federal crime. Therefore, these too often financially struggling vets have to go out of pocket to access this medicine. However, many simply may not be able to afford it. In 2010 the VA did make clear that vets accessing legal medical cannabis in their state outside the VA system are not at risk of losing their VA benefits. But the VA itself still cannot offer cannabis to vets.
Veterans groups like the American Legion have been lobbying for the VA directly to supply cannabis. They argue that the VA provides highly addictive opioids, whereas medical cannabis can help vets avoid these dangerous drugs. Let us hope that it is not too long before those who served our country can access all the help they need from our federal government.