California has become the first state in the USA to give veterinarians legal protection to answer questions and advise on using medical cannabis for pets. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law September 28 a bill by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) to allow vets to discuss the use of medicinal cannabis for their animal patients in their licensed practice.
Assembly Bill also requires the California Veterinary Medical Board to adopt guidelines that veterinarians may use to follow in discussing medicinal cannabis on an animal within the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
Public interest in using cannabis for veterinary use of cannabis has surged in recent years, as pet owners have seen their old and infirm animals become more mobile, ‘youthful’ and better natured after consuming cannabis products intended for human consumption.
A fluke in Proposition 64
California had no law on the subject one way or another until, in an inexplicable twist, the authors of the human legalization initiative, Proposition 64, added a ban on its use for animals.
“None of us really got why they stuck that in there,” noted Chris Conrad of Friends of Prop. 64. “It just seems like maybe the authors read an article in a newspaper or blog and decided to run with it without looking into the topic. In fact, veterinary use of cannabis remained popular all the way until the federal government stopped letting sick people use it. A lot of this use was for horses, but nowadays it’s more about people’s dogs.
Bay area author Beverly Potter just released a new book on the topic, Cannabis for Canines, from Ronin Press.
Veterans can advise “without fear of penalization”
“I am grateful to Governor Brown for signing AB 2215 into law and allowing veterinarians to discuss the use of medical cannabis without fear of penalization or losing their state license,” said Assemblymember Kalra.
“Veterinarians in California, unlike physicians, currently have absolutely no protection from being subject to disciplinary action for having a simple discussion with their clients about medical cannabis. Now that Californians have greater access to cannabis than ever before, many pet owners are already looking at the use of cannabis to provide therapeutic and medical relief.
“This bill is a valuable first step in providing veterinarians the tools they need to better inform a pet owner’s decision on the use of cannabis and promote safe, responsible use of medicinal cannabis.”
AB 2215 also requires the California Veterinary Medical Board to establish guidelines for licensed veterinarians that can be the basis for discussions on the use of medical cannabis on an animal patient. Similar guidelines for physicians recommending medical cannabis were developed by the Medical Board of California.
The bill includes prohibitions against veterinarian conflicts of interest with a licensed cannabis business.
Last year, the California Veterinary Medical Board issued a statement to all licensed veterinarians, stating: “There is nothing in California law that would allow a veterinarian to prescribe, recommend, or approve marijuana for treating animals. Veterinarians are in violation of California law if they are incorporating cannabis into their practices.”
Although a veterinarian may lawfully discuss and administer treatment for cannabis toxicity, it has been unclear whether a veterinarian is protected from discipline or prosecution during discussions with a client regarding the use of medical cannabis treatment on an animal patient.
Cannabinoids, such as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are naturally derived from cannabis and have shown to provide a variety of clinical benefits with existing therapeutic modalities. Preliminary research suggests THC can be useful for conditions such as epilepsy, cerebral ischemia, motion sickness, and cancer treatment. Research has identified CBD useful for psychosis, seizures, anxiety, stress, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, pain, vomiting, diabetes, mellitus, cancer, and repair of traumatized tissue.
AB 2215 is supported by the California Veterinary Medical Board and the California Veterinary Medical Association, as well as business groups like the California Cannabis Industry Association and Social Compassion in Legislation, one of the state’s leading animal welfare advocacy groups.