Can California Vets Prescribe Cannabis to Pets? SB 627
Earlier this year, a bill passed the California State Senate that would authorize a qualified veterinarian to recommend the use of medicinal cannabis on an animal patient. Under the guidance of the Veterinarian Medical Board (VMB), Senate Bill 627 would expand the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) to account for the prescription of cannabis to animals. The bill is currently making its way through the legislative process and is now in the Assembly. If the bill passes, medicinal cannabis retailers would be permitted to sell cannabis products to the primary caregiver (over the age of 18) of an animal patient as long as the animal patient has a veterinarian’s medical recommendation.
Make sure to talk to your vet and obtain their approval before you give your pet any type of drug, even if plant-based.
Opponents of the Bill
The VMB have not been as eager to sign off on the bill due to a lack of provisions related to negligent recommendations. Their opposition to the bill was focused around a necessity “to take action against veterinarians for negligent or incompetent cannabis use recommendations – especially if the recommendation resulted in animal harm.” In fact, the bill even prohibits a veterinarian from being punished for recommending cannabis for an animal patient and entitles vets to the same protections as a physician and surgeon under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. The VMB’s statement further noted, “The bill’s lack of protection against negligent and incompetent cannabis recommendations by veterinarians would have serious impacts on the health and welfare of animal patients.” In order to qualify for protection under the law, vets will have to take a course approved by the Association of Veterinary State Boards’ Registry of Approved Continuing Education, which provides similar legal safeguards to those given to doctors recommending cannabis for human consumption in the state.
Similarly, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) suggests that while “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.” In addition, the AVMA also notes the lack of accuracy related to product labelling with respect to both the identity and amount of active ingredient found within a given cannabis product.
Researchers Support the Bill
Senate Bill 627 has received support from both the American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The latter stated that “owners deserve the most reliable information possible regarding their pet’s health and well-being. That information and advice is expected to come from trusted veterinarians.” Support for hemp-based treatment of dogs and cats has been explored as an alternative to pharmaceutical treatments by numerous veterinary labs over the past few years. For one, Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine partnered with ElleVet Sciences last year in order to investigate the benefits of CBD for canine patients, and they found that such products were "efficacious for pain in dogs with osteoarthritis, chronic joint pain and geriatric pain and soreness; with dramatic beneficial effects in our more geriatric patients." UC Davis also conducted a survey in 2017 asking participants to provide observational feedback on any CBD treatment provided to their pets. As is commonly reported by pet-owners, the effects of administering CBD oil and other hemp-derived products have been consistently positive. However, the primary concern is with dosing and the possibility of administering products with levels of THC over 0.3%. As cats and dogs (and most domestic pets) have higher metabolisms than humans, the level of intoxication is significantly higher as well. This presents serious risk to the health of pets without effective treatment and supervised dosing schedules. Even Martha Stewart has said she’s been working on recipes and ointments for humans “as well as for animals, like cats and dogs,” to show her support for the CBD movement.
SB 627 is now being considered by the State Assembly
In May, The California Senate voted 33-0 in favor of the bill a few weeks ago and has since been ordered to the Assembly. This bill marks yet another advancement of MAUCRSA and will likely open up the possibility of more studies related to the health benefits of CBD in serving humans and animals alike.
Lauren Estevez is an attorney who advises international, multi-state and California cannabis brands, operators, and investors. She is nationally recognized as a subject matter expert in Cannabis Law and her work has been featured on CNBC, Bloomberg Law, and SXSW. The National Law Journal awarded Lauren the recognition of Cannabis Law Trailblazer in 2019. Lauren is the founder of LME Law.