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For years now, people have been using cannabis to help allay a wide variety of health problems in their pets. Pet owners have found success treating such conditions as arthritis, anxiety, seizures, and even cancer—many of the same ailments we use cannabis for as humans—in our furry friends. But even though cannabis products have often proven themselves to be helpful for pets, pet owners haven’t always felt confident choosing them. The reasons for that are largely twofold. The first reason is a lack of research—because cannabis has been and remains illegal at the federal level, there’s never been as much information available to the public as there should be about its effects and potential benefits. Fortunately, as more and more states start to legalize, and with the federal decriminalization of cannabis, that trend is changing, and we’re beginning to see more studies that deal with the way cannabis affects animals.
The other reason pet owners have held back from cannabis as a solution to their pets’ ailments is even simpler—pet owners trust their veterinarians. And asking a vet for advice about cannabis has been complicated. Cannabis hasn’t historically been part of anybody’s veterinary practice, meaning that many vets simply don’t know a lot about it yet—it’s not included in any curriculum for medical school, and they haven’t taken the time to find out about it. And in some places, cannabis is simply illegal, and people are hesitant to bring the matter up to their vet at all.
Now, though, the state of Michigan is breaking new ground by taking the stigma out of the cannabis conversation and allowing vets to provide information about cannabis and its benefits to pet owners.
Cannabis is legal for both medical and recreational use in the state of Michigan. Of course, those laws were made with humans in mind, but the legality applies to the substance itself, which frees people up to purchase cannabis products to share with their pets.
Recreational cannabis became legal in Michigan in November of 2018 with the passage of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. However, that act didn’t explicitly address the matter of cannabis products for pets, which meant that both pet owners and vets were left to make their own evaluations regarding the issue. Many vets erred on the side of caution and opted not to provide any cannabis information to pet owners, even though the substance had been legalized.
In early January of this year, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a bill that allowed vets to discuss cannabis treatments with pet owners. The bill came into being after one vet who had concerns about the issue reached out to State Representative Greg Markkanen. Three other state reps also sponsored the bill that was eventually presented to the Governor.
“We must make sure our veterinarians are able to have open and honest conversations about the products, so Michigan pet owners can make well-informed decisions about what is best for their animals,” said Representative Markkanen. He also expressed that the research about cannabis continues to grow, and more and better information is becoming available all the time.
At the time this article was written, Michigan is the only state to address this matter so directly, but we hope other states will soon follow their lead. If you’re considering a cannabis product for your pet—especially one containing THC, which animals are very sensitive to—it’s very important to consult with your vet and make sure you introduce the new substance in a way that will be safe and comfortable for the animal.
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