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California Bill to Allow 420 Doctor Evaluations For Your Pets

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A bill before the state Legislature this year would go a step further, allowing qualified veterinarians to recommend cannabis for pets.

Who knew a plant that people or government prohibited for human consumption could gradually make a way into pet health care as well.

The expanded latitude is important because discussions with clients about cannabis often lead to pointed questions from clients about what products to use and at what dosages, said Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinarian with a holistic medicine practice in Oakland, and an advocate of the change.

“If you shift the decimal point one way in the wrong direction, that’s the difference between efficacy and your dog in the emergency room,” he said.

The state that led in legalizing medical marijuana for the two-legged is once again stepping out in front when it comes to animal access to cannabis. In California, the state Senate on Thursday voted unanimously for SB 627, which allows adult pet owners to buy their pet medical marijuana with the recommendation of a veterinarian.

The legislation was sponsored by Democrat Senator Cathleen Galgiani, and underwent review by the California Veterinary Medical Board.

The case for treating pets with medical marijuana products has been being built for some time now, largely powered by human companions who stress over dosing their furry friend with opioids. But despite some science that points towards marijuana’s effectiveness in treating some animal health conditions, vets can be reluctant to talk about medical cannabis treatment options. You can’t really blame them — currently, such discussions could open them up to federal penalties.

Not just any pet doctor will be able to make the call of whether your furry friend could benefit from cannabis should the state Assembly pass SB 627, and it be signed into law by the governor. Recommending vets will have to take a course approved by the Association of Veterinary State Boards’ Registry of Approved Continuing Education in order to qualify for protection under the law, which provides the same kinds of legal shields as those afforded to doctors recommending cannabis for human consumption in the state.

Last year, legislation to legalize pet marijuana medicine advanced in both California and New York, but ultimately did not make it over the finish line. However, in California the passage of AB 2215 means that veterinarians are allowed to “discuss” the possibility with pet owners. (A note: there is still controversy among members of the Veterinary Medical Board about the meaning of the word “discuss.”) Connecticut and Tennessee are also considering bills that would shield vets from penalty for recommending cannabis products.

The American Veterinary Medical Association holds that “cannabinoids such as CBD appear to hold therapeutic promise in areas such as the treatment of epilepsy and the management of pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, the available scientific evidence pertaining to their use in animals is currently limited.” The AVMA also cautions the friends of furry friends that many products marketed to pets have been found to be inaccurately labelled in regards to active ingredients.

To fill in the gaps in our knowledge of how marijuana might be able to aid pets, there are some studies that have been launched. Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine did find in 2018 that a hemp oil blend was “efficacious for pain in dogs with osteoarthritis, chronic joint pain and geriatric pain and soreness; with dramatic beneficial effects in our more geriatric patients.”

In Australia, an investigation of the effects of the cannabis-derived CPAT-01 on dogs is being carried out. In 2017, a UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital study of pet owners found that many were employing medical cannabis products to treat their pet for anxiety, pain, and to deal with health conditions that cause seizures.

Despite the current fuzziness over pets and marijuana in the US, though, in other countries their access is already a given fact. After all, Martha Stewart announced that her company is helping to develop a line of CBD pet products earlier this year!

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