Cannabis for Canines? Proposed Law Could Make it Legal for Veterinarians to Prescribe.

A bill that would allow veterinarians to recommend cannabis products for pet is being considered by California lawmakers. Assembly Bill 384 is a follow-up to a law passed three years ago allowing veterinarians to discuss marijuana with pet owners without facing penalties. Numerous product, such as CBD-infused treats, capsules and oils, are now available for pet owner purchase. Vets can legally talk about them, but they can’t recommend them. canine cannabis

The bill reportedly has unanimous, bipartisan support in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, and is supported not only by organizations like NORML but also the California Veterinary Medical Association.

As our Los Angeles cannabis business attorneys understand that animal owners are essentially being left in the dark about how much or what type of cannabis they should be giving their animals for various ailments. Veterinarians cannot discuss the possible impact of a certain product on a specific animal or offer a suggestion for how much would be a safe yet effective dose. Absent this guidance, pet owners are essentially left to their own devices and research to guess or rely on a cannabis dispensary clerk’s take, even though these individuals know noting about the effects on animals.

U.S. law bars veterinarians from possessing, administering, prescribing or dispensing cannabis or any related products. State law in California recognizes that cannabis can be used legally by adults over the age of 21 and medical doctors can prescribe cannabis for humans who are patients, state law still doesn’t permit veterinarians to prescribe it for animals. A veterinarian who prescribes cannabis to an animal would be in violation of the state law.

AB 384 would change that, but would that be safe? Unfortunately, due to the drug’s status as a Schedule I narcotic, there isn’t a great deal of research on the safety or effectiveness of cannabis for pets. There also aren’t any quality control measures that are specific to animals or specific breeds. That’s not to say cannabis does not have benefits for animals, only that more research may be required to establish regulatory guidelines. As veterinarians likely know, animals like dogs and cats can be more sensitive to the impact of certain drugs, cannabis included. There can also be side effects if an animal is already taking another medication or supplement.  That’s why it’s important for vets to be able to discuss matters like dosage with owners.

This bill would require the California Veterinary Medical Board to set forth guidelines for vets who recommend the use of cannabis on animal patients. It would also amend Prop. 64 on adult-use recreational marijuana to encompass products intended for animals too.

The measure does have its opponents. For instance, the Veterinary Cannabis Society is concerned that the bill, as it is worded, might open the doors for unscrupulous manufacturers, operators and advertisers to target a sensitive market, without paying adequate heed to the potential consequences.

Animals who are suffering from cannabis toxicosis may experience:

  • Disorientation.
  • Lack of coordination and balance.
  • Reduced heart rate.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Dribbling urine.
  • Sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Vomiting.
  • Lethargy.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Seizures.

Although cannabis itself is unlikely to kill a dog or cat, what can happen is the animal becomes so sedated they choke on their own vomit.

Pet owners and veterinarians in Los Angeles can report cases of cannabis toxicity to the Veterinary Public Health program, which is designed to allow the pet owner and reporter to be anonymous so the agency can collect information on which products are causing potential harm to pets – and also to gain information about which potential dosages might be dangerous.

Vets or makers of cannabis animal products should consult with a cannabis lawyer if they have any questions or concerns.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Cannabis and Pets, County of Los Angeles

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