The Cannabis Conversation: What Veterinarians Should Know
The application, safety, and legality of cannabis products today is a complex topic, one that Stephen Cital can help us navigate.
The use of cannabis products in veterinary medicine holds a lot of promise as a safe and effective way to help patients be more comfortable and live a higher quality of life. It’s also unregulated for the most part, leading to some unsafe and untested products that could harm patients. What’s on the label doesn’t always match what’s in the bottle.
To help veterinary professionals understand where the industry is on cannabinoids, how to use it in practices, and what precautions to take, we recruited Stephen Cital in this Quick Cup of Knowledge to impart his expertise on the subject. Cital, a registered veterinary technician and anesthesia/pain specialist, is a co-founder of the Veterinary Cannabis Academy.
He started the Veterinary Cannabis Academy to provide an open platform where professionals could share data and experiences with an honest conversation regarding cannabis in veterinary medicine. Because larger organizations still consider this topic taboo, Cital says he and his cofounder hoped to fill that void.
What Substance Are We Talking About?
Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two main compounds found in cannabis plants. THC is the psychoactive compound that is dominant in marijuana. CBD is dominant in hemp plants, which contain less than 0.3% of THC. Find out more about CBD vs. THS here.
Marijuana is illegal on the federal level, so as a veterinarian you’d be smart to stay away from using or recommending these products in your practice. It’s a different story with hemp products, however. Hemp-based products have been found to decrease pain, help with epilepsy and osteoarthritis in dogs, and exhibit other positive effects still being studied.
What Veterinarians Should Know
(1) Use the right language when talking to clients about cannabis. According to Cital, the approach you take and the language you use when recommending cannabis products can determine the legality and ethics of the practice. Stay away from words like “prescribe” or “dispense” for a specific disease. If you use it as a “treatment” for a condition, it becomes an unapproved drug, Cital says.
Instead, approach these products as a supplement to conventional therapy, an aid to ease discomfort.
(2) Find a good attorney. To be safe, Cital recommends working with an attorney who is familiar with cannabis law (federal and state). Be careful about the laws in the state where you practice, as each one can be vastly different when it comes to these products.
(3) Ask for certifications of analysis for each product. Another word of caution Cital has to share regards the quality of the products you decide to recommend. As mentioned before, the cannabis industry is largely unregulated. To ensure a safe product and an honest supplier, ask for certification of analysis. If the supplier can’t or won’t give you one, it’s a big red flag.
Where Is This Going?
At this point, cannabis products are a great option for animals that are uncomfortable or feeling pain. The future of this endeavor could include opportunities to help animals that need cognitive support or even those that have cancer.
The veterinary industry is learning more and more about cannabis, and the future looks bright for the responsible use of cannabis products for the benefit of animals.
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