Veterinarians Group Backs Marijuana Rescheduling

By Tom Angell | August 30, 2017

The nation’s leading veterinarians organization is joining the movement to revise marijuana’s status under federal law.

In a little-noticed development, members of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) approved a resolution at its conference last month urging the organization’s board of directors to “investigate working with other research organizations and medical stakeholders to reclassify cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 to facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses.”

The organization, which was founded in 1863 and represents more than 89,000 veterinarians across the U.S., is also being encouraged by its members to develop and distribute literature on marijuana’s legal status, research on its medical uses and “the signs, symptoms, and treatment of cannabis toxicosis in animals.”

The moves come amid dual trends surrounding a growing interest in cannabis’s potential to provide relief to dogs, cats and other animals suffering from pain and a rise in media reports about accidental pet ingestion of marijuana products.

AMVA members are concerned that cannabis’s current classification under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act — a category that is supposed to be reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no medical value — has blocked research into its effects.

“As the national association, we at least need to write a letter and ask the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to approve the research,” Dr. Richard Sullivan said before assembled AMVA delegates at the conference. “Clients are asking us, and it’s our obligation morally and ethically to address these cases. We need the research, and we need our national association to represent us at FDA and get things moving … and get some action done, soon.”

Dr. Michael Ames pointed out that while a growing number of states allow medical or recreational marijuana use by humans, those policies are silent when it comes to veterinary applications for cannabis.

“So while it may be legal for you to use yourself, it’s not legal to prescribe it to animals,” he told fellow AMVA members.

Despite the extra hurdles that Schedule I imposes for research on marijuana, there are at least some studies investigating its potential to help animals.

Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, for example, is currently conducting trials on cannabis’s effects on osteoarthritis and epilepsy in dogs.

“The anecdotal treatments are that it has the great potential to be beneficial,” AMVA President Dr. Micael Topper said. “We’ve seen great potential benefits in human use. Animal systems are a little different, so that’s why we really need to test it.”

The American Medical Association asked the federal government to reconsider marijuana’s Schedule I status in 2009.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rejected petitions to reschedule cannabis last August.

Tom Angell

Tom Angell is a senior political correspondent for MassRoots. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority and is editor of the daily Marijuana Moment newsletter.

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