The American Veterinary Medical Association approved a resolution to begin exploring how to advocate for cannabis.
The nation’s leading veterinary organization is joining the effort to reschedule cannabis under federal law. At its conference in Indianapolis last month, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) approved a resolution recommending that its board of directors “investigate working with other research organizations and medical stakeholders to reclassify cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 to facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses.”
Because marijuana is federally classified as a Schedule I drug, restrictions and requirements create arduous hurdles for investigators seeking to procure the necessary research approvals. This has hindered the collection of data on cannabis efficacy, dosage, safety, and delivery systems. Rescheduling cannabis would open opportunities for more research in humans and animals.
“As the national association, we at least need to write a letter and ask the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to approve the research,” California delegate Dr. Richard Sullivan said in front of delegates at the conference. “Clients are asking us, and it’s our obligation morally and ethically to address theses cases. We need the research, and we need our national association to represent us at FDA and get things moving… and get some action done, soon.”
Founded in 1863, the AVMA is a nonprofit organization that has more than 89,000 members. As of now, the AVMA does not have a policy on marijuana research. AVMA members have encouraged the organization to develop and distribute literature explaining the legal status of cannabis, the research investigating its potential benefits, and “the signs, symptoms, and treatment of cannabis toxicosis in animals.”
In a press release announcing the resolution approval, veterinarian and Arizona delegate Dr. Michael Ames pointed out that despite medical cannabis being legal in 29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and nine states and the District of Columbia legalizing cannabis for recreational use, its federal status as a Schedule I substance prohibits veterinarians from recommending it for pets.
“So while it may be legal for you to use yourself, it’s not legal to prescribe it to animals,” Ames said.
Despite the laws restricting veterinarians from treating any animal with cannabinoids, pet owners have already begun to give their furry friends cannabis products for pain and anxiety. Earlier this year, NPR did a report on pet owners giving their dogs the non-psychoactive cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) in an effort to manage the stress and anxiety of loud fireworks on and around Independence Day. Some veterinarians, like Ames and Dr. Steven Ellis of Sunderland Animal Hospital in Massachusetts, acknowledge that cannabis and CBD have been used to treat canines.
“Even in states that have legalized it, none have stipulated its use in veterinary medicine,” said Ames. “Does that mean clients aren’t using it on their pets? Of course they are.”
Veterinarians at Colorado State University are currently conducting two clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of CBD in dogs with epilepsy and osteoarthritis. Research so far suggests that CBD has low toxicity and high tolerability in both animals and humans. Veterinarians have warned that large doses of the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have been found to be toxic for dogs.
The AVMA’s resolution comes amid the conflict between a growing interest in the potential of cannabis for pets and resistance from government officials who believe pet owners should hold off until there’s more research. Utah’s Department of Agriculture just recently banned pet food manufacturers from including hemp in their products, claiming that hemp is unapproved and has not yet been adequately studied for its effects on animals.