October 31, 2018

New California Law: It's OK to Talk Pot With Pet Owners

Beginning in 2019, California veterinarians will not be penalized for discussing with clients the therapeutic uses of cannabis in pets.
By Amanda Carrozza
It’s official. California will be the first state whose veterinarians are legally allowed to talk to clients about cannabis use for pets. But they will not be allowed to dispense or administer cannabis-based products.

The legislation, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in late September, goes into effect on January 1, 2019 and prevents state regulators from penalizing a veterinarian for discussing the therapeutic use of marijuana in animals.

Because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled drug, most veterinarians have historically taken the stance that they should not discuss the drug’s possible medical uses with pet owners. This sentiment is also true in states that legally permit the recreational use of marijuana, such as Colorado and Washington, because there were no state laws in place that address the use of cannabis products in veterinary patients.

California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) members were vocal about their support for the bill throughout the voting process. “It’s what’s best for animals, it’s what’s best for clients and certainly, it’s what’s best for the veterinarians, because they’re the professionals,” said Valerie Fenstermaker, executive director of the CVMA, who spoke before the state senate vote in August. “We have dispensaries selling these products and nobody...outside of a veterinary professional should be giving advice about using these products in animals.”

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The bill requires the state veterinary board to develop guidelines by January 1, 2020 for practitioners to follow when discussing cannabis with clients. The law does not permit veterinarians to give cannabis or cannabis products to patients or their owners. It also provides for penalties if veterinarians:
  • Accept, solicit, or offer any form of remuneration from or to a cannabis licensee if they or their immediate family have a financial interest with the cannabis licensee.
  • Discuss medicinal cannabis with a client while employed by or have an agreement with a cannabis licensee.
  • Distribute any form of advertising for cannabis in California.
Although this is the first law on the books to address cannabis use in the veterinary profession, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association has been vocal about its stance on the issue as well. In an official 2016 position statement, the board declared that “veterinarians have an obligation to provide companion animal owners with complete education in regard to the potential risks and benefits of marijuana products in animals.” The statement also notes that discussion regarding a specific marijuana product as part of the therapeutic regimen for a patient should be consistent with a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
 

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