Humans continue to uncover the plethora of benefits cannabis can offer our minds and bodies, but why should we be the only species reaping the benefits of this special plant?
That’s a question the folks behind Veterinary Cannabis Society (VCS) clearly considered, as the first U.S. nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness for cannabis as a medicinal option for animals. It launched its website and educational portal for veterinarians, pet parents and cannabis product companies following the creation of the nonprofit in 2020.
The founding team, a group of dedicated cannabis industry leaders and veterinarians, saw the gap in education around safe and appropriate use of cannabis for treating animals and focused their mission on creating lasting solutions to help ensure the proper and safe use of cannabis in pets through education, advocacy and promoting product standards.
VCS offers a range of resources for vets in search of alternative tools and medicine to better serve their patients, alongside resources for pet parents curious about using cannabis effectively for their pets. VCS also offers educational resources, like critically reviewed articles, a curated research library, podcasts, videos and presentations.
And if it isn’t clear by the influx of ever-changing and evolving cannabis legislation around the country, laws around cannabis continue to vary state-by-state, making it even more challenging to navigate with the surge of states moving forward to legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis. Initiatives from 2021 alone have four states (New York, Virginia, New Mexico and Connecticut) now boasting legal recreational cannabis.
With that in mind, VCS also offers updates on local, state and federal laws for members and non-members alike. They say it is crucial for practicing veterinarians to be knowledgeable about these updates, since the majority of state veterinary medical boards are not taking a solid stance on hemp or high-THC cannabis products. This makes it even more challenging to vets who seek to understand the legal parameters they must operate under within their specific states.
Therefore, the nonprofit is also working to promote sensible policies and legislation in states where cannabis is legal to make sure veterinarians have the tools and knowledge to safely recommend cannabis for their patients.
“Veterinarians today struggle to discuss cannabis with pet parents, as they either lack the knowledge or want to avoid potential legal implications,” said Dr. Trina Hazzah, the co-founder of VCS and a 15-year integrative veterinary oncologist. ”No veterinarian should have to risk their license or livelihood simply because they are trying to do what is right for their patient. What we are striving for is an educated and empowered global veterinary medical cannabis community.”
A study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science found that 82.2 percent of veterinarians strongly agreed that there are medicinal uses of CBD for dogs from a medical standpoint. Additionally, studies have shown that CBD use for pets yields positive results. One trial found that 89 percent of dogs who were treated with CBD experienced fewer seizures.
Though the findings speak for themselves, many cannabis pet products remain unregulated, and with research on pets and cannabis just beginning to scratch the surface, there is still a lot to learn.
VCS hopes to begin closing some of those gaps, also recognizing that cannabis is not one-size-fits-all, pets included. The nonprofit works with cannabis execs and professionals who create pet products and help to provide guidance for meeting pet safety standards.
Vice President and co-founder Dr. Gary Richter said that, despite the hesitation or persistent stigma using cannabis still carries, it’s past time this industry begins to seriously have this conversation in regard to pet medicine.
“Despite some individuals’ prejudices about cannabis, we must recognize the research that has been published thus far, pointing to cannabis as an effective medicine that, when used appropriately, is safer than many of the pharmaceuticals veterinarians use every day,” Dr. Ritcher said. “However, before recommending a product, we need to make sure the product meets certain safety and quality benchmarks that may vary from the existing framework for human products.”
VCS offers a variety of membership options for veterinarians, pet parents and product manufacturers, each catering specifically to the needs of the applicable party. The nonprofit is also exploring options for corporate partnerships with organizations looking to contribute to the advancement of veterinary cannabis medicine and welcomes individual donations.
Visit their website to learn more.