In late December 2020, Michigan joined California by allowing veterinarians to legally discuss the option of using, or not using, hemp or marijuana products for their pets, according to hempgrower.com. Cannabis, hemp, and marijuana laws and regulations are as varied as the strains and verbiage, and when it comes to pets and hemp, the laws become tricky. But as the cannabis laws across the United States change at the state level, pet owners are also searching for answers about using cannabis to treat their pets.
Michigan is the latest state to move cannabis laws for pets forward to keep up with the industry demand for CBD-infused pet food and treats. Much of the current confusion surrounding the infamous cannabis plant relates to the wording used to label both pet and human products. The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp and CBD derived from hemp plants federally legal, but the Food and Drug Administration classifies CBD as a drug and does not approve cannabis for use in animals. Therefore, labeling has been a cause of real confusion.
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To help veterinarians provide adequate pet care, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed H.B. 5085 into law, which states veterinarians can consult with customers about using hemp or marijuana for their pets. And though Michigan bans the sale of CBD-infused pet food or treats, owners may add CBD products to their pets’ current food or treats.
“Supporters argue that, just as humans need individualized health care and advice, so too do our pets. Some pets may benefit from medicines or other applications derived from marijuana or industrial hemp, while others may experience adverse effects,” states the Michigan legislation.
“The current restriction on veterinarians’ ability to discuss the benefits, as well as the risks, of treatments for pets derived from marijuana or industrial hemp results in incomplete and inadequate pet health care. Allowing veterinarians to become a trusted source of information, in a marketplace with many competing and confusing claims, would ultimately benefit both pets’ health and their owners’ peace of mind.”
There were no arguments against the bill passing.
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In 2018, California passed AB 2215, which allowed veterinarians to talk to pet owners about cannabis without the risk of losing their license. The legislation does, however, state that veterinarians are not allowed to dispense CBD products to their customer’s pets.
At the rate the cannabis and pet industries are growing, respectively, it’s only a matter of time before the two converge. Legal cannabis sales in the U.S. are expected to reach about $23 billion by the year 2025, while the pet care industry is ranked as the second largest consumer packaged goods market in the U.S. Online pet care products have also increased more than 270 percent over recent years.
In 2019, about 11 percent of dog owners and 8 percent of cat owners used CBD supplements or treats for their pets. According to 2020 data from Nielsen and Headset, hemp pet products are expected to reach 3 to 5 percent of all CBD sales in the U.S. by the year 2025. And with 74 percent of CBD buyers sharing their life with a pet, veterinarians are looking to help guide their customers in using CBD products for their pets.
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At a public hearing in 2019, hosted by the FDA, the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, spoke out about the therapeutic potential of the cannabis plant.
“There are FDA-approved cannabis products for human use that veterinarians may use in an extra-label fashion. However, we ultimately desire products for use in animals that come with the assurance veterinarians need that they are of good and consistent quality and that they are efficacious and safe for use in our patients,” said Dr. Ashley Morgan, director of the AVMA State Advocacy Division.
Furthermore, Dr. Morgan stated the need for clarity in cannabis definition and categories in order for veterinarians and pet owners to safely and effectively purchase quality CBD supplements for their pets.
Though currently, no hard data exists, there is anecdotal evidence that CBD helps treat a number of ailments in pets, according to The American Kennel Club, or AKC. CBD oil is often used to reduce inflammation, stimulate appetite, and help with anxiety, nausea, and pain. It is also a well-known treatment option for epilepsy.
The FDA lists adverse effects from pets ingesting cannabis as lethargy, depression, vomiting, agitation, drooling, convulsions, and tremors. The agency is aware pet owners are giving their pets cannabis but has not received any reports of adverse effects.
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