New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Veterans Day that the state had added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the current list of medical ailments treatable under New York’s Medical Marijuana Laws. The new bill allows police officers, firefighters, military veterans, and survivors of domestic violence who have PTSD to possess and use cannabis with a doctor’s authorization. In his statement, during Saturday’s Veterans Day Parade, Cuomo said that the “medical community has determined that marijuana can be a helpful treatment” and that New York is committed to doing everything possible “if there are veterans who are suffering.”
The new legislation, effective immediately, makes New York the 28th state to permit the treatment of PTSD with cannabis but does nothing to help veterans that rely on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for medical care. Because Federal law classifies cannabis as an illegal Schedule I drug, with no medicinal value, VA health care providers are not permitted to prescribe medical marijuana as a treatment or help veterans obtain the medicine. Current Federal guidelines prohibit clinics from allowing the distribution, use or possession of medical marijuana at any VA facility. VA employees may not even facilitate participation in the state program by completing and filing required paperwork.
While the current administration, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has maintained its position regarding the illegality of medical marijuana at the federal level, there is support in Congress for increased study of medical cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain and PTSD. In October, 2017 members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Urges Medical Marijuana Research issued a letter asking VA Secretary David Shulkin to ensure the agency meets “its stated mission,” by authorizing research into cannabis treatments for veterans.
The House Committees letter is part of a continuing effort by lawmakers and veterans groups, most notably the American Legion. The Legion has been lobbying to have marijuana’s designation as a Schedule I drug changed so that research can begin to determine its effectiveness in treating PTSD, chronic pain, and other ailments affecting veterans. House Veterans Affairs Committee Urges Medical Marijuana Research noted that the letter came out on October 26, 2017, the same day that President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Plenzler also commented on the amount of anecdotal evidence which suggests that medical marijuana can provide a useful alternative to prescribed opioids and insisted that more research is necessary to shape future cannabis policy.
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