Medical marijuana is currently legal in Nevada for people with approved medical conditions, but it may soon also be legal as a medicine for pets. A bill introduced mid-March to the Nevada Legislature includes provisions that would let owners obtain the drug for their animals with a veterinary recommendation confirming that the medication may “mitigate the symptoms or effects” of a chronic or debilitating medical condition.
This proposal comes at a time that medicinal marijuana companies are already producing tinctures and treats formulated specifically for pets. Many of the products are developed by veterinarians seeking a better way to treat pain in pets, while others are produced by the companies currently producing similar products for humans.
Marijuana as Medicine
The use of medical marijuana to treat humans in the United States began as early as 1850, and though its use was gradually restricted and made illegal in the early 1900s, a new trend in the country has shown growing support for the drug’s legalization. Though still illegal, the drug has been decriminalized at the federal level and its sale and possession is legal in several states.
In November of 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the sale and possession of cannabis for recreational use; other states regulate its sale and use as a medicinal drug. A recent survey conducted in March of 2015 indicated that 53% of Americans say that the drug should be made legal at the federal level.
California became the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996 and commissioned the University of California to establish study the drug and expand scientific knowledge of its purported therapeutic usages. In 2000, The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) was created to provide evidence that could help provide a definitive answer to the question: “Does marijuana have therapeutic value?”.
A 2010 report published by the CMCR provides a resounding “yes.” To date, the CMCR has completed more than 13 clinical studies, several of which indicate a uniquely effective analgesic effect achieved by marijuana in patients with select neurological diseases and injuries. Specifically, four studies have shown that cannabis exhibits an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect on those with pain conditions related to injuries and diseases of the nervous system.
These results are particularly encouraging because they show efficacy in situations where currently available analgesics have been ineffective. In other words, cannabis has a unique role in meeting medical needs that are not met by the medications currently available on the medical market
Pets Not People
In spite of these scientific studies, there is no such evidence supporting the use of medical marijuana in pets. Though some biological processes are shared across different species of mammals, the physiological differences between humans and their pets can lead to radically different results from any particular drug.
Penicillin, for example, is commonly used to treat bacterial infections in humans, but studies prior to its approval for humans showed it to be ineffective in rabbits and toxic to guinea pigs. Though anecdotal evidence may support marijuana’s efficacy for select animals, it may be a long time before studies are conducted and completed to fully show its effects and its potential value as a veterinary tool.
Nevertheless, as evidenced in California, legalization may come prior to scientific evidence one way or the other. Currently, due to the industries novelty, there may not be specific legal guidelines governing the restriction of medicinal marijuana products for pets. In any event, we can expect to see changes to these laws in the near future, as the “pet-pot” industry continues to expand.