Vets in California can now recommend weed to treat pets
I guess we're waking and baking doggie treats now?
words Megan Wallace
While the image we have of recreational weed smokers is one of blissed-out, lazy stoners (a stereotype which, FYI, has no scientific basis), there is a growing school of thought that cannabis can be beneficial in a medical context. Weed has been shown to have a number of health positives, whether it's easing anxiety or alleviating pain, that have allowed it to emerge as a legitimate medicine.
Already in many US states, medicinal marijuana is available on prescription for a range of health concerns. Over in the UK, it's been legal for medical purposes since 2018, although it's notoriously hard to get it prescribed by an NHS doctor. But while we know that cannabis can help us humans, a new law in California reinforces the idea that it could also be of use to our furry friends.
Specifically, Assembly Bill 1885 was signed into law on 18 September and now allows vets in the US state to "recommend" medical cannabis products for animal treatment. Previously, in 2018 legislation, vets were only permitted to "discuss" medical cannabis with pet owners, leading many to swerve the conversation altogether due to potential legal and professional repercussions.
However, the new law was passed unanimously in both the Assembly and Senate and was backed by California's Veterinary Medical Board. "Pets and their owners deserve to have access to products that can improve their lives, and veterinarians should be allowed to provide guidance on such products,” stated Tim Shu, president of the Pet Cannabis Coalition, an advocacy group striving for the legalisation of medical cannabis for pets.
Currently the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any cannabis-based medical products for pets. However, Reddit is full of pet owners asking whether CBD might help their animal when it comes to conditions like arthritis and anxiety. Understandably, this is of concern from an animal welfare perspective. The average person is not an expert on pet health and there is the potential for harmful misinformation to be spread without a vet's official advice.
The new bill looks to create and publish a set of guidelines around recommending cannabis for pets by 1 January 2024. This should hopefully help create awareness around the safest ways to give pets cannabis products and help owners to understand when cannabis or THC will be a harm or a help to their fluffy friends.
Is medical cannabis safe for pets?
Right now, due to the legal status of cannabis in many countries, the research on how animals respond to weed is limited. However, it has been shown that controlled quantities of CBD can be relatively safe for both dogs and cats. When it comes to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis on animals, the few studies that do exist have mostly focussed on dogs.
This research has attested to the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD in dogs, as well as the ways it can help canines who suffer from osteoarthritis and thus backs up the anecdotal reports you might have seen online from pet owners dosing their pets with CBD. Good news for dogs, we guess!
Is CBD legal for pets in the UK?
In the UK CBD products are legal for humans and can be freely purchased, just as long as they contain less than 0.2% of the active ingredient THC.
While California is taking steps to progress the conversation around CBD and medical cannabis for pets, the UK is not following suit. Advice from the UK's Veterinary Medicines Directorate discourages the use of CBD or cannabis products for pets, explaining that while we know the right dosage of CBD for humans there hasn't been enough research to determine what is safe for pets.
There are also no CBD products in the UK authorised for use in pets, meaning that giving your pet CBD is actually an offence under Regulation 8 of the Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR).
However, there is some hope. In specific circumstances, vets can prescribe human medicine that is authorised in the UK for pets' consumption. Given that there are a select number of UK-approved cannabis-based products for medicinal use, you might just be able to get your hands on some for your pet.
The best solution? Speak to your vet before you give your dog the trip of their life...