Dr. Joseph Wakshlag is quickly becoming one of the foremost cannabis researchers in America. From his former posting at Cornell University, Wakshlag pushed the boundaries of what was permissible by studying the efficacy of CBD in treating dogs with osteoarthritis. As associate professor of integrative medicine and nutrition at the University of Florida, he’s now launching into unprecedented territory, studying cannabinoid-based solutions for seizures and cancer in animals. We spoke to Wakshlag recently to discuss his new areas of research, the vitality ofcannabis therapy in pets, and his aspirations for the future of veterinary medicine.

What first attracted you to cannabis research?

It was due to some of the other research that had been done on rats and mice for pain relief. It was slowly becoming more mainstream and there had been some investigations involving dogs, so I decided to try something new and different. The time was right.

Was Cornell supportive of the 2018 study?

The university didn’t really have a policy – there was nothing definitive. It was a grey area and they kind of let it happen without realizing all of the controversy (since the 2014 Farm Bill was quite vague). At that point, the university said I could no longer do any of the research because of the lack of federal or state legislation.

Does that remain the status quo?

With the passing of the recent Farm Bill, now the gloves are off and people are a little more comfortable moving forward, particularly in light of the fact there are positive studies and more and more universities are taking part in this type of research. Cornell and the University of Florida, where I am now, are certified state hemp, agricultural and commoditization institutions, which are being encouraged to do this brand of research.

How vital is research into cannabinoid medicine for pets and animals?

We have probably 10 years where a lot of research is going to start to blossom, from both industry and the national funding. The reality is I think we need to study each and every one of the main cannabinoids to determine what are the best means of treating things like anxiety, pain and seizures.

Is cannabis unique for having anecdotal evidence serving as the catalyst to scientific development?

Particularly in the veterinary space, anecdotal evidence turns into research to meet a market need. Unlike human medicine where there are big dollars to look into various models and do clinical trials, that doesn’t really happen in veterinary medicine. I think this is very much an industry-driven need that will likely move quickly in the coming years. There are about 30 oils available for dogs right now and we [veterinarians] only understand half the stuff that’s in them.

Your research looked at osteoarthritis. Are there other ailments you’re interested in studying?

We were just approved for two studies: seizures in dogs and oncologic side-effects, and the effect of a CBD-rich oil on chemotherapy. I think we’re going to be the first university to do those types of studies, though Colorado State is finishing up a pain and seizure study as well. Florida, Colorado State and Auburn University are probably the institutions that are most active right now.

What are your aspirations for the future of cannabinoid medicine in animals?

We deal mostly with pain management in my clinical practice and it would be nice to have something with potentially fewer side-effects than what we currently have available that may actually be as effective, if not more effective. That’s really the goal, that’s the hope.

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