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Canada’s medical and recreational cannabis laws could soon be met with important changes regarding how animals are medically treated. While experts agree that more research is needed before cannabis-based products like hemp and CBD are incorporated into therapy for pets and livestock animals, Canada’s leading veterinary advocate group is looking to move the dialogue forward.

Representing the country’s 13,300 veterinarians, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association recently addressed a letter to Health Canada calling for amendments to the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes regulations and changes to the Cannabis Act, the bill that in October 2018, legalized the adult use of recreational cannabis at the federal level.

Noting an increase in use of medical cannabis used to relieve human suffering, the CVMA is looking to shine a light on the fact that the drug and its cannabinoids may well be of use to animals. Particularly, the association is interested in exploring the prospective uses of cannabis in treating pain, anxiety and behavioral conditions. 

“Veterinarians are now frequently fielding questions… about the potential therapeutic benefits of using cannabis in animals,” writes CVMA president Dr. Troye McPherson. “While there is further research needed, the CVMA anticipates that cannabis, and its derivatives, could play an increasingly important role in veterinary medicine in Canada over the next few years.” 

Regarding the sale of, and access to, medical cannabis under the ACMPR, the CVMA is urging Health Canada to allow veterinarians to provide cannabis-based medicine to clients. The association is also asking that the ACMPR be amended to include all medical professionals, namely veterinarians, experienced in prescribing controlled substances and botanical medicines. 

In the context of the Cannabis Act, which numerously makes mention of veterinarians, the CVMA is looking to add warning labels on products containing THC that indicate that the content may be harmful to animals. In American states where cannabis is legal, the CVMA notes, there has been a considerable increase in the reports of ingestion and toxicity of animals, particularly dogs. 

Dr. McPherson’s letter also asks for concessions to be made in one of the most encouraging areas of research with regards to treating animals with cannabis-based products: CBD. This non-psychoactive cannabinoid, they say, shows tremendous promise in the context of a therapy option, with a number of clinical studies backing that point.

Dr. McPherson states, “The CVMA believes that since CBD may have an important potential for use in animals; it is vital that veterinarians have products designed specifically for the unique needs of animal patients, including variable doses, flavourings, and formats to allow the ease of administration.” 

With so many changes greeting the country’s medical and recreational cannabis laws in recent years, it stands to reason that veterinarians will soon be included in the reforms. While the jury is still out on if and how cannabis-based products can help animals, the CVMA’s willingness to instigate the discussion is a sure sign of progress – one of the cornerstones of cannabis treatment and therapy. 

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