New York State’s medical marijuana laws are some of the most stringent in the country. But on Saturday, governor Andrew Cuomo signed a piece of legislation that allows New Yorkers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to use marijuana to treat symptoms. While the optics of the new law mainly center around soldiers with PTSD, the shift could be life-changing for many more people in the state.

Previously, New York law allowed for people with only a few chronic illnesses — including Parkinson’s and HIV — to use medical marijuana. According to Governor Cuomo, 19,000 New Yorkers could benefit from the new bill.

“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, according to the Associated Press.

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While male soldiers are more likely to experience PTSD than the average civilian male, according to PTSD United, one out of every nine women will develop PTSD at some point in her lifetime, meaning they’re twice as likely as men to suffer from the disorder. This is because women are statistically more likely to suffer from traumatic events like sexual assault and abuse. Even within the military, 17 percent of combat troops are women, but 71 percent of female military personnel develop PTSD as a result of sexual assault.

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To be fair, [Cuomo’s bill] does explicitly mention that in addition to troops, “survivors of domestic violence, rape, violent crime, accidents, and among police and fire fighters” could also benefit from medical marijuana. But it bears repeating that this new law could help more than troops returning from combat — in addition to aiding sexual assault survivors, medical marijuana could help treat some New Yorkers who developed PTSD after experiencing 9/11. The list of potential beneficiaries goes on and on.

Though it’s a small step, it’s encouraging that New Yorkers with PTSD now have more options to alleviate some of their symptoms.

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