Legalization of weed in California is leading to an increase in veterinarians seeking expertise about whether marijuana can safely treat pet conditions and illnesses. Veterinary practice regulators say to steer clear, but some in the industry want state lawmakers to step in.
The state’s Veterinary Medical Board, a regulatory agency overseeing state animal hospitals and veterinary practices, has received “a number of questions about the use of marijuana for pets,” according to a 2016 email from a state veterinary board enforcement officer. That prompted agency officials to issue a directive earlier this year to veterinarians across the state that they should not offer medical advice or prescribe marijuana products to animals. Doctors risk losing their licenses if they weigh in on the use of marijuana when treating pets, state officials say.
“You are in a bit of a pickle in terms of how you advise your clients,” Annemarie Del Mugnaio, the agency’s executive officer, told the board Wednesday. “Be very cautious…you’re not in a position to treat or recommend alternative treatments. If it places their animal in harm, there’s a criminal element to that…I can imagine at some point, if we see animals coming in in extreme despair, there may be charges filed.”
Because marijuana is still classified federally as a Schedule 1 drug and no law exists in California allowing doctors to prescribe, recommend or approve it for animals, the state is barred from weighing in on its potential dangers, dosage recommendations or accepted medical use. Should the board receive a complaint that an animal doctor prescribed marijuana to a pet or gave medical advice, the state would be “obligated” to investigate,” state officials said.
“Research cannot even be done,” said Cheryl Waterhouse, the agency’s president, who is also a veterinarian.
The state’s legal