Medical Marijuana Research for Pets
Posted by Glenn Beierle on 01/09/2018 in Pets
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
The American medical marijuana industry is currently in a gray area because of discrepancies between federal and state laws. Scientists who want to study cannabis’ medical applications must go through extensive authorization, and without good research, it’s hard to prove medical cannabis’ efficacy to lawmakers.
But, what about research on using medical marijuana for our furry friends’ health issues? Researchers deal with a similar situation, but of course, there are still a few key differences from human studies.
Medical Marijuana for Pets: An Overview
We talk a lot about marijuana as a medication for humans, but some folks advocate for marijuana pet medicine, too! Just like when a human patient needs extra options, some pet owners feel their companions need more medication choices, too. When used appropriately, cannabis can work as an effective natural alternative for animals.
Both pet owners and state legislation are seeing the benefits that cannabis medicine can have for our animal companions. More than 64% of dog owners felt that supplements either moderately or significantly helped their dogs. Some states even let medical marijuana cardholders purchase medicine for their pets while they get their own medication.
The health conditions pet owners can treat with medical marijuana are similar to the ones humans use medical marijuana for. Pet “parents” can use medical cannabis to treat pet ailments like:
- Chronic pain
- Reduced blood and oxygen supply to the brain or heart
Some owners use medical marijuana on its own, while others use it to supplement their pets’ other medications. If you decide to try medical cannabis treatment for your little buddy, work closely with your veterinarian to determine the best plan of action. Both humans and pets should have the supervision of a medical professional when they try any kind of new treatment.
What Marijuana Medicine for Pets Is Currently on the Market?
Medical marijuana products for pets tend to focus on CBD content rather than THC content because CBD tends to be safer for dogs. They have the most receptors for THC in their brains out of any animal, so using medicine with THC in it can severely harm their coordination. Plus, THC is responsible for the high that marijuana causes.
Since Fido can’t light one up, cannabis-based pet medications tend to come in edible form — any dog owner knows giving your furry friend something tasty to eat can be much easier than giving them a pill. Common types of marijuana-based pet medicine include:
- Liquid extracts
- Topical treatments, like lotions and creams
Is It Legal to Research Cannabis Medicine for Pets?
While it’s technically legal for scientists to study medical marijuana for the purpose of treating pets, they have to jump through a lot of hoops.
Although states can legalize marijuana, the federal government considers marijuana as an illegal Schedule I drug. The strict regulations enforced on Schedule I drugs makes it incredibly difficult for researchers to access the resources they need to conduct scientific studies. Even among Schedule I drugs, marijuana has extra restrictions in place — unlike other substances in the category, private labs can’t produce it for research purposes.
Since cannabis is regulated so strictly in the United States, researchers can’t go through the typical paperwork that they would for researching other medications. Conducting a study on medical marijuana involves giving the subjects marijuana — a highly illegal substance. So, prospective research has to get approval in numerous aspects.
But, in many cases, a scientist has to provide data to justify their study. You see where this is going? We don’t have much data on medical marijuana in the first place, yet we need data to get that data. While some researchers manage to get approval, many others fall through the cracks due to these complications.
The Push for Legal Medical Marijuana Research for Pets
Although the current barriers to research are difficult to overcome, some veterinarians are fighting for fewer restrictions on medical marijuana studies. They don’t want to remove regulations completely, they just want to make the path to knowledge easier for everyone.
In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration added even more obstacles to effective research by clarifying its stance on marijuana scheduling. They made an official announcement indicating that even medical marijuana with low THC and high CBD counts as a Schedule I drug.
But, vets are pushing back so they can get the data they need to help our furry friends. The American Veterinary Medical Association has begun to push for the declassification of CBD-based medicine as a Schedule I drug. At the time of writing, they’re working on building connections with other stakeholders to strengthen their case.
Declassifying CBD medication would not only help pets, it would help humans, too. Research on animals can work as a jumping-off point for research on humans. Plus, declassification would affect CBD for human trials, letting the United States advance its data on medical marijuana. These advocates don’t want to make people high, they want to expand our knowledge so we can use CBD medicine safely.
Learn More About Marijuana Medicine
You and your animal friend don’t have to navigate the world of medical marijuana alone. Experienced medicinal cannabis professionals can give you advice about medicine for humans and pets.
A medical marijuana-certified doctor can help you sign up for a medical marijuana card to let you get medicine for your pet. Also, a dispensary near you may sell medicine specifically for pets. Dispensary staff members know how to educate customers about their products, so talk with them about pet medication for more information.