Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

A new law directing the California Veterinary Medical Board to create guidelines for veterinarians to discuss pets’ use of cannabis was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, and will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Assembly Bill 2215 is surprisingly controversial—for several different reasons. On one hand, it’s a leap forward—as of now, the veterinary board can revoke the license of a veterinarian if he or she even discusses cannabis use for pets. On the other hand, the law still prohibits vets from prescribing cannabis products for their patients.

Again, the longstanding prohibition mentality is standing in the way of real progress. Lawmakers, veterinarians, the veterinary board and pet owners are justifiably concerned, because almost no research has been done regarding the safe and effective uses and dosages of cannabis for pets.

Given humans’ longstanding use of cannabis, it is not surprising that we have also been using it to treat our animals for millennia. Just one example: There is evidence the ancient Greeks used cannabis to treat horse wounds.

When I brought up cannabis use for my dog with our vet, I received a nervous non-answer—which makes sense, given what laws are on the books through the end of the year. Unfortunately, this has led pet-owners to seek information on their own—from the internet, pet stores, budtenders, friends and acquaintances … none of which are the best places to seek medical advice, for you or your pet.

Fortunately, some peer-reviewed scientific studies regarding pets and cannabis are beginning to be released. In July 2018, the first clinical double-blind study treating arthritic dogs with cannabidiol was published in Frontier in Veterinary Science. A team led by Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, of Cornell University, studied how hemp-based CBD products helped dogs with pain and arthritis.

It is important to keep in mind that the research was funded by ElleVet, a maker of hemp oil designed for pets, and ElleVet products were used in the study. Still, the results of the small study of 16 animals were extremely promising: After treatment, more than 80 percent of the dogs saw a significant decrease in pain, and improvement in their ability to move. This is good news for all of us with aging dogs.

Another study, this one at Colorado State University, is looking into treating dogs with epilepsy—and the preliminary results have been called “promising”: A small study of 16 dogs revealed that 89 percent had a reduced frequency of seizures after receiving CBD.

Dosing is a big issue with pets; after all, my three-pound teacup Chihuahua can’t receive the same dose as my 150-pound neapolitan mastiff. Dr. Wakshlag found that with CBD, 2 milligrams per pounds of body weight is generally effective and not cost-prohibitive. The study also found that CBD dissolved in fats had a greater efficacy than other delivery methods.

Take note: THC is believed to be toxic to dogs, so if you choose to experiment with cannabis products on your own pet (something that’s NOT advised), make sure you are using only the purest hemp-based, THC-free products. Signs of THC poisoning include glassy eyes, stumbling and a lack of coordination, vomiting and urinary incontinence. If you think your pet may have ingested THC, get it to the veterinarian ASAP, and be honest with the medical staff. In most cases, even severe THC poisoning can be treated, assuming it is caught quickly.

That said, Dr. Gary Richter, a San Francisco Bay Area veterinarian who spoke at the Palm Springs Cannabis Summit last April, feels that THC may have a greater story to tell. He likes to point out that many drugs, if used improperly, can cause severe harm to both humans and animals. Due to the wide range of uses THC has in human pharmacology, Dr. Richter believes that proper studies may reveal that very small doses of THC can treat pet ailments.

While a few studies are being done on dogs, an even smaller number is being done on cats. I found one being done on anxiety, and one on pain, but I found no studies on cats with any published results yet. I found no research on smaller animals (like parrots or rodents) or larger animals (like horses)—although hemp seeds are safe for parrots, and in fact, parrot breeders often use hemp seed to stimulate breeding behaviors.

In other words … we have a long way to go. Stay tuned.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

The final few weeks of this year’s session of the California State Legislature are here—and the fates of some important cannabis-related bills hang in the balance.

There are 17 cannabis-related bills, in fact, which must be decided on by the Aug. 31 adjournment, covering everything from after-school program funding to the veterinary use of cannabis. As this new industry continues to evolve, it’s important to pay attention—and speak up to ensure lawmakers in Sacramento know what the people of California think.

Here’s a list of those bills, and where they stand as of this posting on Aug. 14. Click the links to each bill to go to the Legislature’s website for up-to-date information.

AB 1744: This bill would mandate that cannabis-tax revenues be used to fund after-school education and safety programs—specifically programs that encourage healthy choices and improve school retention.

This bill is currently in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It should be a no-brainer; it passed the Assembly 73-0 and has sailed through two Senate committees so far.

AB 1793: This is a social justice bill, requiring the California Department of Justice to review all convictions that are potentially eligible for resentencing under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 and Proposition 64.

This bill would go a long way toward addressing the historical use of marijuana convictions to punish communities of color, although it is a far cry from general amnesty. This bill passed the Assembly in a 43-28 vote and is also in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Legislators should show the wisdom and compassion to address these historic wrongs.

AB 1863: This would personal income-tax deductions for licensed cannabis businesses. It, too, is waiting for a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee after passing the Assembly in a 64-11 vote.

“Canna-preneurs” should have the same tax advantages as any other business owner. This is particularly important for small business owners.

AB 1996: This would create a cannabis research program here in California.

Using cannabis taxes to study cannabis seems perfectly reasonable—especially considering federal prohibition has created a vacuum of research. Without a thorough understanding of cannabis, how can we make informed decisions around its usage?

It is currently making its way through the Senate after a 73-0 vote in the Assembly.

AB 2020 and AB 2641: The former bill would authorize temporary event licenses, while the latter would allow for onsite sales at those events. Both easily passed through the Assembly and are in the hands of the Senate.

Last April, High Times magazine’s Cannabis Cup event in San Bernardino was denied permits for sales … meaning the nation’s largest cannabis convention was held without any cannabis. These bills will hopefully eliminate this sort of snafu in the future.

AB 2215: This bill is a bit confusing. The California Veterinary Medical Board currently does not allow doctors to discuss or prescribe cannabis—and can revoke their license for doing so.

The good news: This bill would prohibit the board from punishing vets for discussing cannabis. The band news: It would still be illegal for veterinarians to prescribe cannabis for pets, while the Veterinary Medical Board comes up with guidelines.

This bill passed the Assembly, 60-10, and is working its way through the Senate

AB 2255: This proposed law would prohibit licensed distributors from transporting amounts of cannabis that exceed the amount on the shipping manifest. It unanimously passed in the Assembly and is expected to easily pass in the Senate.

AB 2402: The bill would prohibit marijuana businesses from sharing your personal information without your consent—and would prohibit them from denying you service for withholding consent. It passed the Assembly unanimously and is working its way through the Senate.

AB 2555: This is a “cleanup” bill that would create definitions for terms in state marijuana codes, including “immature cannabis plant,” “mature cannabis plant” and “plant.” It’s in the Senate’s hands after unanimously passing in the Assembly.

AB 2899: This is also a “cleanup” bill that would prohibit businesses with suspended licenses from advertising. It, too, passed unanimously in the Assembly and is working its way through the Senate.

AB 2914: I have mixed feelings about this one. It prohibits cannabis licensees from producing or selling alcoholic beverages containing cannabis, and would stop alcoholic-beverage licensees from selling or providing cannabis products.

I have had wine with cannabis in it … and let’s just say a little goes a long way. This bill may prevent lots of Californians from getting the spins … but does seem a bit “nanny state.”

It passed through the Assembly unanimously and is working its way through the Senate.

AB 2980: This would allow two or more licensed marijuana business to share common-use areas. Office and warehouse space is expensive, especially for small businesses, as long as they are complying with the law, why should they be treated differently from any other businesses?

It passed the Assembly in a 48-21 vote and is in the Senate’s hands.

AB 924: This would create the Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Act for Tribal Entities, forming a process through which the state can interact with sovereign tribes that are producing cannabis products.

It unanimously passed through the Assembly and is awaiting word from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 1459: This would allow county agricultural commissioners to include cannabis in its reporting process to the State Secretary of Food and Agriculture.

It unanimously passed through the Senate and is working its way through the Assembly.

SB 829: This bill would establish compassionate-care licenses for donors of medical use cannabis products to patients who are in need.

It was passed unanimously by the Senate and is now working its way through the Assembly.

SB 930: This is probably the piece of legislation that would do the most to reform the cannabis industry, making things better for the legal market and negatively impacting the illegal market.

This bill would create a state-sponsored credit union for licensed marijuana businesses to use. Because of federal prohibition, cannabis businesses can’t use the banking system, meaning most cannabis business deal with vast amounts of cash, making them vulnerable to crime. I have heard of bud-tenders being paid with stacks of $5 bills, landlords receiving thousands of dollars of rent in cash, and so on.

It passed the Senate on a 32-6 vote and is working its way through the Assembly.

It’s great to see so much work being done in Sacramento to reform and strengthen California’s cannabis industry. However, it’s disappointing that not one of these 17 bills was introduced by a Coachella Valley legislator. Considering the blooming importance of cannabis to our economy, it’s disappointing that these state legislators seem indifferent to the needs of their constituents.

Published in Cannabis in the CV