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Nevada Might Expand Medical Marijuana Access — To Pets

by April M. Short

on March 25, 2015

RT America’s The Resident a.k.a. online celebrity Lori Harfenist recently ran a segment about medical marijuana — for pets. Knowledge of the array of medicinal benefits the cannabis plant offers is spreading fast these days. Twenty-three states as well as Washington, D.C. now allow certain medical patients access to marijuana medicine. Now, Nevada is thinking of expanding access to encompass our furry friends.

Photo by Anna Hoychuk.

Photo by Anna Hoychuk.

Democratic Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom introduced the measure this week, which if passed will allow pet owners to obtain medical cannabis for their animals if a veterinarian confirms the herb could mitigate symptoms of a chronic or debilitating medical condition.

“If this bill passes, pets in Nevada would be able to legally toke up,” Harfenist reported. “And that is just more proof that America is well on its way to flat out legalizing weed.”

In 2013 I spoke with Darlene Arden, a certified animal behavior consultant, for an AlterNet article on this very topic. Arden is a well-known authority on the care of toy dog breeds and has written several books on pet care. She’s also an outspoken advocate of cannabis for pets.

“Pets cannot speak up and say ‘Hey, this hurts,’” she said, noting that just decades ago it was common veterinary practice not to provide any pain medication for pets. “There was a time when veterinarians would do surgery and not give the poor animals any kind of pain control in the belief that if the animals felt pain, they wouldn’t move that body part.”

Of course, cats and dogs feel pain similarly to humans, and function far better with pain medication. Arden said pet owners should do everything possible to relieve their animal’s pain.

“You think about how much good this has done for cancer patients, and yet in most of the country not only is it withheld from pets, it’s withheld from people who desperately need a drug that has been proven to work, because [the government is] afraid of the drug people, the ‘potheads,’” she said. “That means they’re punishing sick people because they don’t want well people to get it. That, to me, is crazy.”

Several veterans have come out in favor of cannabis for pets. It’s a cheaper option than pain medication (which isn’t normally covered by pet insurance), and has shown potential to mitigate pain in pets — especially in older dogs.

In Los Angeles, California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, veterinarian Doug Kramer has already treated some animals with cannabis via an ingestible “magic cheese.”

Kramer runs the Vet Guru animal center, and was the first veterinarian in the U.S. to offer cannabis to animals.

He told the New York Daily News that in the last weeks of his husky, Nikita’s life — during which she was clearly experiencing pain and had trouble even standing up — he treated her with marijuana and she “stopped whimpering and started eating, gaining weight and meeting him at the door again.” He was able to improve the quality of her last days of life.

In an interview with the Missoulian, Kramer said he’d grown “tired of euthanizing pets” when he thought there was more he could do to help them feel better.

Photo by Fly Dragonfly.

Photo by Fly Dragonfly.

As noted in the AlterNet article, “A survey in Colorado veterinary hospitals, released in 2012 by the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, linked the death of two dogs to cannabis found in their systems. As the conversation about medical cannabis for pets expands, a number of vets are calling for further study before recommending or advocating for the drug’s use on animals.”

In June of 2013, Barry Kellogg, senior veterinary adviser to the Humane Society of the U.S., told the Associated Press that giving cannabis to pets is potentially dangerous. In the same article, AP interviewed Megan Hanley, manager of a pot clinic called La Brea Compassionate Caregivers in Los Angeles, which sells “Companion Cannabis” to dog owners.

Hanley told AP that “it’s a revolutionary product and response to it has been tremendous in the last year,” and recommended a drop of liquid marijuana extract for every 10 pounds a dog weighs. She added that (unlike humans) dogs might potentially overdose from cannabis, but like with any other substance it is the responsibility of the caretakers to keep it out of reach of pets unless it is being administered at a safe dosage. Arden also expressed hope that researchers would look into the long-term effects of medical cannabis on dogs and cats. It could be a while, since researchers have yet to delve into many human studies using cannabis.

Photo by  Tyler Olson.

Photo by Tyler Olson.

“If you have a way to keep pain from helpless animals who can’t speak up, do it,” Arden said. “Do it safely, do it with a veterinarian, under his license, in an approved state. But don’t let your animals suffer. You wouldn’t want your family members to suffer. You wouldn’t want to suffer. What is it going to take for people to finally realize we can stop hideous pain?”

You can watch the RT America report below.