A California legislative panel approved a bill to legalize cannabis for pets on Tuesday, just a day before the famed 4/20 marijuana high holiday. The measure, AB 1885, was approved by members of the Assembly Business Professions Committee with a unanimous vote of 19-0. Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the sponsor of the legislation, thanked his colleagues on the committee after the vote.
“With ever-increasing evidence supporting the beneficial role of cannabis for animal-use, pet owners need the best information around safe and responsible use,” Kalra writes in an email statement. “AB 1885 would ensure that veterinarians are able to use their expert judgment to recommend regulated, therapeutic cannabis products for the pets in their care.”
Under AB 1885, state-licensed veterinarians would be allowed to recommend the use of cannabis on an animal patient for potential therapeutic effects or health supplementation purposes. The bill also requires the state Veterinary Medical Board “to adopt guidelines for veterinarians to follow in recommending the use of cannabis-derived products on an animal within the veterinarian-client-patient relationship,” according to a summary of the legislation. Additionally, the measure allows cannabis products intended for use on animals to be purchased in licensed cannabis dispensaries if they adhere to state regulations and relevant manufacturing, packaging and labeling standards.
If AB 1885 passes, veterinarians will be permitted to recommend medical marijuana products including tinctures, topicals and chews for administration to pets by pet owners. Under the bill, all animal cannabis products will be tested for safety, potency and pesticides, giving owners further confidence in using cannabis for their pets.
“Cannabis can provide life-changing–-and oftentimes lifesaving–-benefits for animals,” Dr. Tim Shu, veterinarian and founder and CEO of cannabis-based therapy company VETCBD, said in a statement about the legislation. “Pets and their owners deserve to have access to products that can improve their lives, and veterinarians should be allowed to provide guidance on such products. We need to shed the shroud of prohibition and embrace science if we’re to embark on a path of progress.”
AB 1885 Clarifies Earlier Legislation
Under a bill (AB 2215) passed by California lawmakers in 2018, veterinarians are allowed to discuss the use of cannabis on an animal for medicinal purposes with pet owners. But the bill fails to clarify the point at which a discussion becomes a recommendation, which carries with it potential disciplinary action. Because of this lack of clarity, many veterinarians reasonably choose to err on the side of caution and forgo discussions of cannabis use for pets completely.
“A crucial component of the work we do is advocating for animals, both on the state and national level,” said Elizabeth Oreck of the Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit that operates the nation’s largest animal rescue sanctuary and two pet lifesaving centers in Los Angeles. “California’s legal language surrounding how veterinarians can discuss cannabis is unclear, and this too often has them deciding not to discuss it at all. While the research shows that animals can benefit from cannabis in various ways, many caring pet owners aren’t able to receive professional advice about these benefits.”
Kalra’s bill would also enables state-licensed veterinarians to recommend the use of cannabis on animals in their practice without fear of disciplinary action from the state Veterinary Medical Board. Dr. Trina Hazzah, president and co-founder of the Veterinary Cannabis Society, says that “there is no one more qualified and knowledgeable to provide support and guidance regarding the treatment of cannabis than the veterinarian.”
“There is no one more qualified and knowledgeable to provide support and guidance regarding the treatment of cannabis than the veterinarian,” Hazzah writes in an email. “It is our duty to provide education on evidence-based research around the potential benefits of this complex plant as well as provide harm reduction strategies to keep our patients safe. Providing veterinarians the legal freedom to guide pet owners in finding quality products as well as offering dosing recommendations is critical to ensuring the safety and health of our animal patients.”
AB 1885 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration. Because the bill amends the voter initiative legalizing marijuana in California, the measure requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of the state legislature to pass.