California Veterinarians and Cannabis Can they recommend it? — Senate Bill 627

Good news for pet owners: you may soon be able to enjoy the benefits of medical cannabis products together—legally.

Veterinarians “discussing” Cannabis

Last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to recognize cannabis in veterinary medicine, providing legal protection to those veterinarians who talk to their clients about its use. Currently, a veterinarian can discuss with a client the potential use of cannabis and whether it would help their pet but cannot go so far as to recommend a specific product or dosage or sell the client a cannabis product. AB 2215, which was passed and signed into law in late 2018, paved the way for SB 627, by allowing veterinarians to “discuss” the use of cannabis with pet owners.
SB 627, authored by Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (Dem – Stockton), would broaden those protections, allowing veterinarians to discuss and recommend cannabis and related products with clients without fear of sanctions. It would prevent the state Veterinary Medical Board from taking special enforcement actions against vets who recommend cannabis products, such as CBD oil, for their animal patients. The bill was likely prompted by increased interest in the use of cannabis to treat a variety of conditions in their pets, including anxiety, pain, seizures, and cancer.

When can Veterinarian Recommend Cannabis?

The new bill proposes to allow “a qualified vet, as defined, to discuss the use of medicinal cannabis or medicinal cannabis products on an animal patient”. Previously, vets faced possible punishment for recommending cannabis products for medical purposes. Under the new bill, any veterinarian who recommends medical cannabis would be protected just as a physician or surgeon would under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.
The bill also proposes the following restrictions when cannabis is prescribed:
1. There must be an established relationship between the vet, the client, and the patient;
2. The veterinarian must specify the medical condition that the prescription is addressing and include the name of the patient and the primary care giver in the recommendation;
3. The veterinarian must perform an examination and identify a medical necessity for cannabis before providing the prescription;
4. A veterinarian cannot recommend medicinal cannabis if he or she has a financial relationship with a person or entity that dispenses the drug; and
5. Vets cannot advertise that they offer recommendations for medical cannabis, and they cannot actually dispense or administer the drug themselves.

Sponsors and Opponents of Bill

Sponsors of the bill include the American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. Legalizing and normalizing the dispensation of medical cannabis would help pet owners provide their loved ones with relief in a safe manner and can talk to their veterinarian of choice instead of relying on dubious online sources for information.
There is opposition to the bill, however. The California Veterinary Medical Association objects to use of the term “qualified vet” because such a distinction is not made for any other drug that vets normally prescribe. In response, the Assembly Committee on Business and Professions has proposed to replace the language with a “California-licensed” vet.
The bill is opposed by the Veterinary Medical Board as well, who stated that the Board must be able to take action against vets who make negligent or incompetent cannabis recommendations, particularly if they result in animal harm. The Board believes that the bill lacks protection against such recommendations, which would have serious impacts on the health and welfare of animal patients. It is worth noting that the Board is currently tasked with implementing new guidelines for veterinarians to discuss cannabis. These must be completed by January 1, 2020.
The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions lists as a major concern a lack of research regarding cannabis and animals. For instance, the Center of Medicinal Cannabis Research in California has done zero studies on the efficacy of cannabis in animals. Because of this, they have recommended adding to the bill a research requirement, as well as the requisite funding.
The bill has already cleared the Senate with a unanimous vote. The Assembly Committee on Business and Professions then voted to pass the bill on July 9 and re-referred it to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If the bill does pass, then California will be the first state in the Union to allow veterinarians to “recommend” medical cannabis for animals.

What does this mean?

Currently, veterinarians in California are only allowed to “discuss” the use of medicinal cannabis products for your pet. However, if SB 627 passes, they will be able to specifically recommend the right product for your animal and give specific instructions regarding dosage without fear of risking their veterinary license.
If you have any questions regarding California cannabis law, veterinary licensing, or anywhere in between, please feel free to give the experienced attorneys at Simas & Associates a call at (888) 999-0008. And check back with us as we follow this legislation.