March 01, 2018

STATE NEWS: California Bill Would Let Veterinarians Discuss Cannabis With Clients

When the use of medical marijuana became legal in California in 1996, doctors throughout the state were allowed to discuss cannabis as a treatment option for their patients. Now that recreational marijuana has been legalized in California, will lawmakers pass a bill that would allow veterinarians to do the same?
By Kerry Lengyel
With the passage of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act on Jan. 1, the sale of recreational marijuana became legal throughout the State of California. But when it comes to The Golden State’s four-legged population, no laws have been passed regarding cannabis treatments.

“Right now there’s no guidance,” said California Assemblymember Ash Kalra. “And since cannabis has become recreationally legalized, there’s a great risk that individuals will be giving cannabis to their pets not knowing and not having any guidance on it.”

That’s why Kalra proposed AB-2215, a bill that would require the California Veterinary Medical Board to establish guidelines for licensed veterinarians to discuss with clients the use of cannabis in their patients—and to protect veterinarians from disciplinary action for doing so.

While this bill is sponsored by the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), it has received pushback from the board. In a motion from the board to support the bill, it failed on a 4-2 vote.

Board members have concerns about the bill’s language, which states that veterinarians can discuss treatment with cannabis but does not state that veterinarians can recommend cannabis to clients. The board is also asking for disciplinary authority over veterinarians who recommend dangerous doses of cannabis.

Kalra will have to garner support from the board to get this bill off the ground.

Because veterinarians are not legally allowed to discuss marijuana use with their clinets, pet owners seek information on their own—usually on the internet. But erroneous advice from Dr. Google can prove detrimental for pets.

“Veterinarians should be making these recommendations, not all these other people,” said Valerie Fenstermaker, executive director of the CVMA. “Some veterinarians have expressed that they receive questions daily about this.”

Another holdup is the very little research that is being done to understand the effects cannabis has on pets. Classifying marijuana products containing cannabidiol as Schedule I drugs has created a major roadblock for the veterinary research community.

But Kalra believes this bill can help create an easier path. “[We proposed] this bill because we want research to guide our regulations,” Kalra said.

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