Veterinarians Want Pot for Pets

New Jersey veterinarians are banding together to help their four-legged friends; medical doctors can recommend cannabis for their patients and veterinarians want to be able to as well. But, as of now, their hands are tied. Not only can they not prescribe it, but they also can’t comment on it – they’re barred from offering any advice that promotes cannabis even if they do believe that cannabis could be a fix for Fido.

The pet cannabis industry is thriving in many ways; there are oodles of products available, especially those that are CBD-based. But vets face extreme consequences if they offer advice on legally available cannabis for canine or feline consumption.

Pug showing chalkboard with CBD on it

Dr. George Cattiny, a Pompton Lakes veterinarian, went on record to say,

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“There’s a tremendous future in (the medical marijuana products for pets), and I believe as time goes on, they will serve a great use. But, at this point, we’re handcuffed. No one wants to take any risk. You don’t want to be a pioneer and risk your license.”

The chair of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s subcommittee on cannabinoids, Dr. Jeffrey Powers, stated that they will address the problem in their October meeting. He added that the organization was leery of choosing a side, not wanting to risk the licenses of their members, but that the issue was pressing and often talked about among veterinarians.

The association hasn’t been entirely indifferent; last year, they asked the DEA to take marijuana off the Schedule 1 list, requesting a chance “to facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses.”

Doing so would allow veterinarians to be more candid with their clients and offer innovative solutions to animal illness. It would allow them to do their jobs.

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“Clients have historically gone to the veterinarian to be the source of knowledge about their animal’s health,” Powers said. “And the vet is left in a precarious position. It needs to be that we can talk freely.”

Of course, not being able to discuss it openly, even if it’s to warn against its use, puts animals in danger.

Seizures in Dogs

Ask enough pet owners and you’ll probably find several with a dog that’s experienced seizures. While some of these have underlying causes, many are idiopathic, meaning they happen for no known reason. Certain breeds are especially prone, including beagles, collies, German shepherds, and Labradors.

Cannabis is well known for helping quiet seizures in humans, making it easy to assume it offers dogs similar relief. It could offer similar relief for older dogs who are in chronic pain (from things like arthritis). But the DEA doesn’t appear to be much of a pet-person (or a people-person, for that matter).

The DEA and your DOG

The DEA has cannabis labeled as a Schedule I drugWhile the rest of the nation’s cannabis views have widened, the current administration's have closed, narrowing so much that they deemed any extract of the cannabis plant a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act in January of last year.

But that’s not stopping the nation’s veterinarians.

In California, one of the newest additions to the recreational weed club, a bill is in the California Assembly that strives to fix the conundrum veterinarians face. If passed, it would provide state-licensed vets with protection from disciplinary action for discussing cannabis use with the owners of their patients.

This sort of thing is gaining steam back in New Jersey.

Nancy Munoz, a Republican assemblywoman who represents the 21st Legislative District and an RN, said that she is still learning about CBD and pets, but she is adamantly against the DEA’s insistence on preventing veterinarians from discussing CBD pet supplements. She is also open to a law that would protect veterinarians who choose to discuss cannabis with their clients.

Her belief, just like the American Veterinary Medical Association, is that marijuana should be reclassified from a Schedule 1 drug, a belief shared by – it seems – just about everyone. Reclassifying it would allow more research, much more, and help everyone to better understand what medical marijuana can do.

As of now, politicians cite the lack of research as their reason for dismissing it. But, it’s a cannabis Catch-22: We won’t approve this because there isn’t enough research, but we won’t make marijuana accessible so that you can perform the research necessary for our approval.

It’s enough to make one wonder if they’re afraid to allow this research – once scientific study after scientific study backs marijuana as effective, it’s game over…they lose.

In the meantime, New Jersey veterinarians are hoping that owners take action, writing petitions and demanding change. They are hoping they’ll advocate for the animals that can’t advocate for themselves.

Recreational Cannabis in New Jersey

As rumors of recreational marijuana spread across New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy is focused on another element of cannabis: its medicinal benefits. In fact, his administration is calling on the state’s medical marijuana program to double in size as they request six more marijuana providers to assuage their supply problems.

Behind the push is Murphy himself – the legislature didn’t pass a bill in June that would have expended the medical program. So, he’s doing it himself – Phil has had his fill of the red tape. Now he’s asking for more providers, hoping they can meet the increasing demand that has skyrocketed since several maladies were added as qualifying conditions.

The addition of chronic pain and anxiety, for example, has given the “green” light to more New Jersians than ever before. Per the Department of Health, the state is adding 500 additional people to the program per week. This is good for the industry – those who can be helped by Mary Jane should certainly be able to obtain it – but it’s bad for wait times. Patients are met with long lines and out-of-stock strains.

In a statement, Murphy said,

“We look forward to the opening of six new dispensaries so we can ensure that all qualifying patients who want access to medical marijuana can have it.”

Cannabis has always had an ally in Murphy; his campaign made pot progressive promises he seems to be sticking to. But it’s not just the humans in his state that can benefit; it’s also the pets.