Medical Marijuana for Pets: Is it Legal?

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Medical marijuana is becoming more recognized as a beneficial and therapeutic treatment for those suffering from various ailments. Therefore, it should not be surprising that veterinarians are starting to research the use of medical marijuana for treating ailments in pets as well. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has created a document on this topic, specifically aimed at veterinarians, which will help them to communicate to pet owners the legal status of Medical Marijuana for pets along with the risks involved. 

Is medical marijuana legal?

The simple answer is no. Marijuana products are currently being marketed to treat diseases in pets so owners should be aware that they are still considered illegal.

From the AVMA article, “While both marijuana and industrial hemp products are available, no studies, doses, or uses in veterinary medicine have been determined. Furthermore, FDA has not approved the use of marijuana or hemp in any form in animals, and the agency cannot ensure the safety or effectiveness of these products. For these reasons, FDA and AVMA cautions pet owners against the use of such products. Many of these products are marketed as CBD oil or chews. These products, despite contrary claims, are illegal for use in pets.”

There is a lot of confusion and controversy in the area of medical marijuana verses hemp and there is a difference between the two. However, no matter what it is labeled as, if the content related to the product at any point refers to the treatment of diseases in animals, whether it is a chew, an oil, a pill or in any other form, it is illegal. 

As of today, medical marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA, which means it is illegal for veterinarians to prescribe or recommended medical marijuana as a form of treatment for any pet-related ailment.

So, the pet chews I just bought that have organic hemp in them, are they are illegal?

Not necessarily. There are several products on the market that contain marijuana or hemp and a number of veterinarians dispense hemp seed oil. However, because a veterinarian is dispensing it (or a company is labeling it) with the intent of medically assisting an ailment, it is considered a Schedule I drug, therefore, illegal. Chews do not necessarily fall under this specific category unless, of course, the party that is selling the product is labeling it as a means to cure or aid diseases. 

The company, was issued a warning by the FDA in 2015 for discussing their products on their website in relation to animal diseases or medical conditions. Canna-Pet has since updated their website and included this FAQ (click here) to better help customers understand the legal issue.

In the letter to Canna-Pet, the FDA noted that the company promotes its product as especially beneficial for pets with “nausea, chronic pain, cancer, seizures,” among other issues, making it illegal. (source) 

Other warning letters have been issued to companies like Michigan Herbal Remedies, LLC, stating they are in violation “because they [the products] are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.” (source) 

Are attempts being made to get medical marijuana reclassified in order to make it legal for pets?

The AVMA first touched on the topic a few years back by writing a publication titled, Veterinary Marijuana. As you will see in this article, both doctors and veterinarians alike are pushing the federal government to consider rescheduling marijuana (from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule 2 drug, such as morphine)  to allow more research that could yield new cannabinoid-based medications. This would eventually allow medical marijuana to be used for pets. 

Is marijuana toxic to my pet?

Marijuana exposure itself is not toxic for pets. Most cases of marijuana toxicity that vets see are due to dogs ingesting marijuana products for humans, especially edibles, that are left where the dog can get to them. The dose is higher than what is safe for a dog and many of the edible marijuana products contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs.

The staff at (name redacted) fully understands that having a pet who is ill makes for a difficult time for both pet and owner. We are here for you when you need advice on ways you can best deal with your particular situation. 

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