Rhode Island could become the first state where pets qualify for medical cannabis. The proposed bill would grant veterinarians the legal power to prescribe medical cannabis to pets for “any condition suffered by a domestic pet that would be a ‘debilitating medical condition’ if it were suffered by a person.”
“Some people might scoff at this bill, but those of us who have pets, or have had pets, know that many of us think of them as members of our extended family,” said West Warwick Democrat Rep. Patricia Serpa, who sponsored the bill, along with William O’Brien and Stephen Casey, also Democrat Reps. “And we will go to great lengths to provide them comfort and well-being, either for a chronic condition or an end-of-life condition.”
The idea of medical cannabis for pets has been floating around for some time. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation to allow veterinarians to discuss cannabis/hemp as remedies for pets with owners (rather than recommend and prescribe it).
In 2019, California seemed poised to become the first state to allow medical cannabis for pets, but that didn’t come to fruition, and medicinal cannabis for pets remained at the level it is now in Michigan.
In 2018, a bill in New York attempted to do what this current one in Rhode Island is aiming to achieve, but nothing came of it, either.
The Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association has made their stance on the matter clear—stern disapproval and opposition on account of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being toxic to dogs.
“Emergency hospitals report seeing as many as 10 cases of [cannabis] intoxication daily in pets,” they stated in a letter to the Rhode Island House Committee on State Government & Elections, adding that there are no FDA-approved cannabis products for pets.
Dr. Ralph Pratt, a veterinarian at West Greenwich Animal Hospital and part of the board of directors of the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association, notes their stance on THC for pets doesn’t close the door on CBD. Benefits of CBD for dogs encompass conditions including neurodegenerative disorders, anxiety, inflammation, and epilepsy.
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