New York May Soon Allow Women To Use Medical Pot For Menstrual Cramps

By Paul Gaita 06/01/17

Promising legislation aims to make extreme menstrual cramps a qualifying treatment for MMJ.

Women holding out a marijuana joint in her hands.

Menstrual cramps have been cleared for inclusion as a qualifying condition in New York's notoriously strict medical marijuana program. The state assembly's Health Committee approved Assembly Bill 582, which sought to amend public health laws by including dysmenorrhea—or pain associated with menstruation—as a covered condition, by a vote of 24-2.

The bill must now head to the full Assembly for a vote and gain a sponsor in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Supporters of the bill, including New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored AB 582, voiced their praise for the amendment. "Midol cannot be the pinnacle of menstrual cramp treatment," she wrote in a statement. "We women demand more; we demand access to pain relieving medication that is safe and effective at relieving menstrual cramps… this legislation is exactly the type of progressive innovation needed to finally bring some relief!"

Rosenthal also singled out actress Whoopi Goldberg for bringing attention to the bill. Goldberg, who is co-owner of Whoopi and Maya—a medical cannabis company with products designed to alleviate menstrual discomfort—issued a statement which read in part, "I'm glad to see states like New York starting to get serious about this, and when it gets to [New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's] desk, we hope he recognizes and champions this conversation, and allows these decisions to be made between patients and their doctor by signing this very important bill Assemblywoman Rosenthal sponsored." 

Goldberg and her partner, Maya Elisabeth, are contending with their own issues in getting their products into retailers across the United States. Currently, they are only allowed to sell in California, where the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act passed in the fall of 2016.

"This niche is half the population of the earth," Goldberg said in an interview with Vanity Fair in March 2016. "[Resistance] seems to be people flippantly blowing you off, which is what you get whenever you start talking about cramps. They weren't thinking, 'How do you target this?' I have grown granddaughters who have severe cramps, so I said this is what I want to work on."

The New York State Medical Marijuana Program covers very few medical conditions, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's disease. Chronic pain was only added to the list in December 2016, while post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which passed the Health Committee in early May, is still waiting for approval from the Senate.

Rosenthal hopes to generate enough interest in the bill among the Senate to generate one sponsor. "I am working hard to get that accomplished," she wrote.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.