The 2018 Farm Bill lifted the ban on hemp, creating a lot of buzz about products derived from hemp, including hemp-derived CBD oil.
Although this creates an exciting market opportunity for veterinarians and members of the pet industry, some important issues still need to be resolved.
Passing the Farm Bill did not legalize "pot for pets" — but it does mean pets can enjoy the benefits of CBD derived from industrial hemp.
Although marijuana and hemp both derive from the cannabis plant, marijuana plants can have THC levels of 30% or higher, whereas hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC. Federal law aside, the THC levels in marijuana products (whether in plant, pill, edible, or tincture form) are toxic to dogs and cats. CBD oil derived from hemp, and most CBD pet products do not contain THC, which provides your pet with the "relaxation without the intoxication."
For both dogs and cats, CBD oil can relieve symptoms of arthritis, reduce pain, and treat drug-resistant seizures and epilepsy (without the side effects to your pet's liver or other organs). Additional benefits include reducing anxiety, strengthening the immune system's fight against cancer cells, and reducing inflammation.
The legalization of marijuana and acceptance of hemp-derived CBD oil, for both medical and recreational uses, in more states across the U.S. will mean increased interest for CBD pet products across the nation.
Oddly, the place where pet owners are most unlikely to learn about CBD for their pets is at the veterinary clinic.
CBD products for pets (and humans) are widely available and legally sold online and in stores. Still, many veterinarians are reluctant to discuss cannabis, even if legalized in their state, because the laws do not contain provisions for ailing animals.
Before the legalization of marijuana became mainstream, you could walk into a doctor's office to get information and medical advice about cannabis. But if you try to solicit information and medical advice about cannabis for your dog's seizures or cat's tumor, your vet would have to decide between the risk of losing their license or sharing what cannabis could do for your pet.
Only California has passed legislation that specifically authorizes veterinarians to discuss cannabis for pets with their clients. In most states, even though veterinarians make up the strongest segment of supporters for cannabis and CBD medical applications for pets, they are not permitted to discuss these options or conduct more in-depth research about its effectiveness.
Cannabis regulations should include provisions for "nonhuman" animal and pet use.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act require drugs to be tested by the Food and Drug Administration before entering the U.S. market. CBD is considered a new drug, which means that medical claims for CBD products must be verified — if it is intended for human use.
But who said anything about drugs? Manufacturers simply categorize their products as pet supplements, which are not subject to any stringent regulations. The National Animal Supplement Council has attempted to address this gap for pet supplements with the Food and Drug Administration and to create a quality-seal audit program that is similar to the requirements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which regulates supplements intended for human use.
This means that the legal status, medicinal value, and CBD content of cannabis products intended for pet use is uncertain and unverified. Unless agencies and states make it clear that cannabis regulations and standards also apply to nonhuman animal use, risks of illicit and harmful products for pets may slip through the cracks.
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