Pets At The Cannabis Table? Dr. Tim Shu of VETCBD Talks About California’s AB-384 To Allow Veterinarians Right To Prescribe Cannabis For Pets

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AUTHOR: Heather Allman

PUBLISHER: CANNABIS LAW REPORT

 

National Pet Month is in May, and what better way to celebrate our furry friends than to give them access to cannabis as medicine!

That’s what AB-384 proposes, a history-making new bill in the California legislature which would allow veterinarians to legally recommend cannabis to clients. 

No other state has a provision for medical cannabis for pets.

 

 

Veterinarian-founded VETCBD is backing this critical measure. Below, and here, is the press release from April 27, 2021:

 

California AB-384, Aiming to Expand Cannabis for Pets and Veterinarians’ Oversight, Supported by VETCBD

Bill Allows Veterinarians to Legally Recommend Cannabis to Their Clients

 

 VETCBD asks the public to join in supporting the measure by writing letters to the California Legislature through PetCannabis.org

 

In celebration of National Pet Month in May, veterinarian-founded cannabis company VETCBD has announced its support of California Assembly Bill 384, a critical measure that would help expand veterinarian oversight of medical cannabis products designed for companion animals. 

The bill recognizes cannabis as a therapeutic for non-livestock animals and allows veterinarians to legally recommend the use of cannabis to clients and provide pet-specific dosage information.

 

“Following Assembly Bill 2215’s passage in California in 2018, veterinarians were allowed to discuss cannabis with clients, but not recommend it. Due to that legal gray area, many veterinarians were uncomfortable discussing its use whatsoever. The passage of AB-384 would remove that barrier and allow veterinarians to recommend the use of cannabis without fear of legal reprisal.”

said Dr. Tim Shu, founder and CEO of VETCBD.

 

In addition to allowing veterinarians to recommend cannabis as a therapeutic treatment for companion animals, AB-384 would create a separate category for pet cannabis products that are sold in California dispensaries and subject to the same testing requirements as other products. 

If AB-384 is passed, California would be the first state to adopt such a law, making history and likely setting a precedent for others, as it did with medical cannabis for human consumption in 1996 and again in 2003.

 

 

In May 2021, Cannabis Law Report interviewed Tim Shu with VETCBD —here is our insightful conversation about AB384, a California bill allowing veterinarians to legally recommend cannabis to their clients — pets and pet owners. 

In actuality, 68% of American households have a pet, so pull up an extra seat at the dinner table tonight, invite your pet and your pet’s veterinarian, and enjoy an interesting cannabis conversation.

 

 

Cannabis Law Report: Please introduce yourself and provide background on California’s AB384 and VETCBD

 

Tim: I’m Veterinarian Tim Shu, Founder and CEO of VETCBD. We put together a coalition at petcannabis.org, formed for the purpose of passing AB384 to allow vets to recommend cannabis products and create a category for pet cannabis products.

 

CLR: We know CBD isn’t always enough. Why have you seen a need for a bill of this sort? How did this come to be?

Tim: A couple years ago Bill AB225 allowed vets to discuss cannabis with clients but did not allow for recommendations. 

Until then, vets didn’t know where to draw the line. To play it safe, they wouldn’t say anything to clients. This wasn’t beneficial for either vets or clients, since vets are a source of information and clients weren’t getting that. 

AB384 closes that gap and allows recommendations so vets don’t fear repercussions

 

CLR: That’s wonderful that it could be recommended for therapy. Who is the category overseen by?

Tim: It is overseen by MAUCRSA, the California cannabis license system that has high standards for testing.

This allows you to know the product you are purchasing is a legally licensed product that has gone through rigorous testing standards. That way people know they are getting good,  clean, consistent product

 

CLR: Testing is the way to go for humans and pets. Can you explain MAUCRSA?

Tim: MAUCRSA is an acronym for the legal regulatory framework for cannabis in California. 

 

 

CLR: As far as discussing cannabis vs. recommending cannabis, we know that certain doctors and have earned a CME credit for learning the endocannabinoid system. What about in this case?

Tim: The overwhelming majority of vets have not learned about the endocannabinoid system, or about cannabinoid therapy for pets.

That’s wild, because that’s like not teaching the endocrine system. We provide free continued education or CME for vets and vet nurses that allows them to have education credits.

We will continue doing this because the community needs to catch up.

 

CLR: We could not agree more. In Florida, my doctor said she was not taught about the endocannabinoid system in medical school, so I know about the gap we need to bridge when it comes to education —for veterinarians too. 

Tim: Imagine if you went to a doctor and asked about the endocrine system and they said “I don’t know. I don’t know what hormones do for the role they play in health and disease.” Sounds crazy, right? 

But that is where we are at with the endocannabinoid system. More often than not, doctors and veterinarians would not know the role that system plays.

 

CLR: How is VETCBD involved in AB384?

Tim: We are a coalition. Members are a broad range of groups and organizations from cannabis industry and animal activists. 

They have seen the benefits  themselves firsthand and want to move it forward and see this Bill signed to law.

 

CLR: Sounds like you are trying to get an inclusive team together about therapeutic cannabis.

Tim: Animal activist groups see it the most: cannabis decreases anxiety and stress in those animals they are dealing with.

Cannabis also helps with pain and discomfort from injuries. A lot of veterinarians are on board for the same reasons.

 

 

 

CLR: We’re playing Devil’s Advocate here, so why is legalized CBD not quite enough?

Tim: When it comes to hemp,  there are no testing regulations or standards, so the final product you get off the shelf or internet is NOT required to go under testing. 

Studies show that when hemp products are tested for potency, a lot of them don’t actually have the amount of CBD they  claim on the label.

Sometimes, there’s more CBD in the product, but oftentimes, there’s way less CBD. 

In some cases the products show there is NO CBD content. This is confusing and unfortunate for the customer because it is up to the company what testing they want to do. 

 

However, for licensed cannabis, testing is required.

 

Testing is required for safety and purity, as well as for potency.

Another important component on the cannabis side besides consistency is you that can utilize more THC. 

THC does indeed have medicinal benefits. It can be very valuable for pain, inflammation, nausea, appetite loss or cancer.

Yes, animals are sensitive so less is required, but THC is an important component of the Entourage Effect.

 

CLR: We 100% agree with the testing part. A bill like this would set a precedent and open the realm for vets to recommend something, in this case cannabis, that has gone through rigorous testing standards.

Tim: Yes, absolutely.

 

CLR: Why would this be much better for the pet than a person obtaining it and giving cannabis to the pet from their own personal stash?

 

“DOSAGE IS KEY WHEN USING CANNABIS WITH PETS”

 

Tim: The biggest thing is dosage. Animals will be different in a few ways:

  1. How much they weigh. For example, a 10lb dog vs 150lb human.
  2. Formulation is different. Humans tend to start out with a 1:1 CBD: THC ratio, but for animals, we would start out at a 20:1 CBD to THC ratio; or a 10:1, if the need was really high.
  3. Most importantly, the amount of milligrams will be different. We don’t want to leave guess work to the owner; we want medical professionals that know how each body will respond. Different species have their own systems and characteristics and you want to make sure the dosage is specifically tailored towards animals and you want it to be safe. 
  4. Some ingredients we utilize for human consumption are safe for humans, but toxic to animals. For example, chocolate, sweetener like xylitol and macadamia nuts are toxic for animals.

 

The most ideal situation is for each patient —human or pet— to have personalized medicine.

Our state of medicine isn’t quite there yet, but we will continue to steadily progress in that direction.

 

CLR: I read that it has passed the Business committee and will be heard by Assembly Appropriations. Where is the bill currently?

Tim: Yes, it needs to go through the Assembly and then through the Senate. That is why we encourage supporters to send a letter to petcannabis.org so they can show support —no matter what state they live in. 

 

CLR: I do think creating a category and testing requirements is key. That’s why we were asking about education because that is the trifecta. Do you have a professional relationship with the bill sponsor?

 

Ash Kalra

 

Tim:  Ash Kalra is the bill author, not an official sponsor. Yes, we are working closely with him to support the bill 

 

CLR: With VETCBD, you are about plant-based therapies with a focus on education and advocacy. VETCBD is also carrying products that have THC?

Tim: Right. We have a cannabis line with 20:1 CBD to THC ratio, and we have a 10:1 CBD to THC ratio. We have a hemp line as well.

 

CLR: As far as consumers, what have you seen as far as pet owners asking questions about this. Are more people concerned about pet health and cannabis use?

Tim:  What stands out the most is that we have gotten lots of feedback over the years where owners were contemplating euthenasia since they thought they were out of options.

 

As a last resort,  why not try cannabis – we’ve got nothing left to lose, right? 

 

It turned things around for them — which is remarkable. Owners have gone from euthenasis to restoring quality of life, which is incredible. 

Little Bijon had epilepsy at 5 years old and was having daily seizures despite anti-seizure meds. The owners had tried everything and didn’t want the dog to suffer, so they considered euthenasia.

They tried cannabis for their dog. Lo and behold, THAT was the only thing that stopped the seizures! It restored quality of life, saved the animal’s life and prevented owners from going forward with euthenasia. 

Also, cannabis is excellent for pets with arthritis. Owners say if it wasn’t for cannabis, the quality of life for their pet wouldn’t be there.

I truly wish all pet owners had access to cannabis. I think we are continuously moving in that direction.

 

 

CLR: Quality of life is important. We have seen a definite shift in mindset around cannabis in the US, and we’re glad the bill is out there. Accessibility is key. Are you finding synergy between groups in your coalition who are working together towards common goals?

Tim: 68% of Americans have pets. We are a country of pet owners. We want to do what’s best and what is right for them. 

 

CLR: It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve found allies across all industries. That is the key.

Tim: At the end of day, we want animals to live their best lives and this is what brings us all together.

 

VETCBD asks the public to join in supporting the measure by writing letters to the California Legislature through PetCannabis.org

 

About VETCBD

VETCBD creates innovative plant-based therapies with a focus on education, research and advocacy in the cannabis space. The company, founded in 2015 by veterinarian and medical cannabis expert Dr. Tim Shu, makes specially formulated full-spectrum cannabis products that are independently lab tested for quality and purity. VETCBD’s 20:1 and 10:1 CBD:THC tinctures and topical cannabis salve are available for purchase in dispensaries across California.

 

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