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Veterinarians & Cannabis Laws

A wave of medical research is providing fresh evidence that marijuana may help dogs and cats cope with arthritis, epilepsy, anxiety and other maladies without the side effects of traditional drugs, but veterinarians are afraid to prescribe it for fear of running afoul of federal laws.

At least 30 U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana, but none of them make provisions for ailing animals.

As a result, veterinarians are reluctant to even discuss marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law, over concerns of putting their professional licenses at risk, said Dr. Jeffrey Powers, chair of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s subcommittee on cannabinoids. That leaves it to pet owners themselves to make life-altering decisions about dosing and duration of the treatment.

Change could come soon to California, which appears ready to pass the nation’s first law giving veterinarians the legal cover they need to answer questions about using cannabis for pets.

“A human can get their doctor’s advice but a dog can’t, legally. It’s bizarre,” said Judy Boyle, 62, of Beaver Island, Michigan, whose dog Mac had for years been taking traditional prescription medicines for arthritis and anxiety. The cumulative effect of those drugs was causing Mac’s liver to fail.


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