New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin introduced a bill Thursday that would allow veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana to pets. State bill A10104, which was referred to the Health committee, would extend medical marijuana protections to any vet-treated animal in the state of New York.
While the idea of pets on pot seems rather comical, it’s not clear whether it’s a good idea. First and foremost, it’s well-established that THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is harmful to some animals — especially dogs. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, marijuana is also toxic to cats and horses.
In fact, the main compound in medical marijuana for pets is CBD, which is also the active ingredient in medical marijuana for humans. CBD’s effects are primarily physical rather than psychological. CBD-based medications are used as pain relievers, anti-nausea medications, and even to treat seizures.
Of course, some animals are plagued by these maladies as well, and it’s this group that Paulin’s bill ostensibly targets. Even so, the effects of CBD on animals remain unclear, and experts say more research is needed.
“Unfortunately there’s not a lot of research out there, especially on animals, on CBD compounds,” veterinarian Byron Maas told Cannabist in December. “The research is really necessary to help us understand how to actually use these compounds on our pets.”
But there is a wealth of anecdotal claims attesting to the success of medicating animals with CBD.
“Today there are a number of holistic veterinarians as well as ‘regular’ veterinary practitioners who advocate for using medical marijuana for pets for a variety of health challenges, including pain relief of arthritis,” animal behavior consultant Amy Shojai tells Inverse. “In all things veterinary medicine, I bow to the expertise of the professionals.”
Unfortunately, opinions differ, and there isn’t yet a scientific consensus among veterinarians. And because marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, scientists can’t conduct research on marijuana without the fear of government crackdowns.
Despite the potential threat of funding cuts or legal action, there is currently one study on the effects of CBD on dogs being conducted at Colorado State University. As of yet, the study results aren’t available.
It’s definitely worthwhile to get a law on the books so marijuana products for pets are properly regulated. But there’s far more research to be done first.
Update 3/19/18: This story has been updated to include a quote from animal behavior consultant Amy Shojai.