What’s the Deal with Pot and Pets?

Cannabis Business LawyersI have a five-year old mastiff and though she’s showing no signs of slowing down, I’m starting to worry about things like her longevity and risk of arthritis. I’ve even begun scoping out products that address aging and pet comfort. I wasn’t shocked to see that the pet store near my house has started carrying pet products that allegedly contain CBD. What does surprise me though is how few states have addressed the issue of pots and pets. The FDA has remained pretty silent on this issue as well.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about pets getting a hold of their owner’s cannabis and the need for better packaging and labeling to prevent this. Since then, there have been a number of stories on pet owners who use hemp-based or medical cannabis products to treat their pets’ various ailments, including seizures and anxiety. But to date, only Nevada has made any real effort to address the issue of cannabis for pets. In March 2015, Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom proposed Senate Bill 372 which would have allowed veterinarians to issue medical marijuana cards to pets if their owners were Nevada residents and if the vet believed marijuana could treat the pet’s ailments. That bill didn’t pass. In most other medical cannabis legal states, manufacturers and retailers make MMJ products for pets even though there’s no law allowing for or regulating such practices and no standard for vets evaluating cannabis as a medical treatment. All this means that MMJ dosing and quality control standards are at the whims of industry best practices and anecdotal evidence and not much else.

The federal government has been of no help in this arena either. Any product that contains any active THC is considered illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act so giving Fido a cannabis cookie or cannabis oil is therefore illegal under federal law. But what about hemp-derived CBD? Many pet stores have hemp-based CBD products that do not violate the federal Controlled Substances Act (and can even cross state lines) because they have no active THC. But the FDA has a serious beef with this kind of CBD if its manufacturer makes medical claims about it. The FDA doesn’t consider CBD from hemp to be a supplement exempt from drug testing under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and that means you can’t make any medical claims about the product without first going through FDA-mandated testing. This includes making medical claims about animal treatments.

The FDA has been diligent in pursuing shut downs of hemp-CBD operators, including those pedaling pet CBD. For example, in the first round of cease and desist letters the FDA sent out in February 2015, Canna-Pet, LLC was on the list. In the letter to Canna-Pet, the FDA wrote:

We have determined that your products are drugs as defined by section 201(g)(1)(B) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“the FD&C Act”) [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1)(B)], as the products are intended for use in the mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in animals.  As discussed below, the products are unapproved new animal drugs and your marketing of them violates the FD&C Act. . . . Statements on your website and product labeling that establish these intended uses of your products include, but are not limited to, the following: From the home page, www.canna-pet.com:
  • FAQs about Canna-Pet™: “We find medical benefits, behavioral benefits, prolonged life, reduced stress, and improved quality of life with our pets.” (http://canna-pet.com/how-to-use/faqs/).
  • Medical Benefits: “We Recommend Canna-Pet™ as a daily food additive for all pets, but especially for those with arthritis, allergies, anxiety or behavior issues, compromised immune systems, diabetes, digestive issues, nausea, chronic pain, cancer, seizures, and those receiving palliative care.” (http://canna-pet.com/how-it-works/the-basics/).
  • Health Benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD) Canna-Pet: “Antitumor, Antiepileptic, Anticancer, Anti-inflammatory, Bone stimulant, Analgesic, Anti-depressant, Antibacterial, Antipsoriatic, Antidiabetic, . . . Anti-nausea, Anti-anxiety, . . . Antipsychotic, . . . Immunosuppressive.” (http://canna-pet.com/how-it-works/phytochemistry-active-compounds/).

Canna-Pet™ MaxCBD Capsules

For pets with extreme issues, who require larger doses of CBD. Most commonly these are pets suffering from seizures, although we often see pets with cancers and aggressive tumors, severe chronic pain, and in end-of-life care using our MaxCBD products.” (https://canna-pet.com/how-it-works/our-products/).

The above referenced products are only intended to be a sampling of the violative products you are currently marketing. Similarly, the above referenced claims are only intended to be a sampling of statements that demonstrate the intended uses of your product.

You should probably think twice before giving pet store CBD to your beloved dog or cat because these products haven’t gone through the gauntlet of FDA testing and are very likely violating federal law as a result. Not to mention that it is difficult to know if these products will be medically effective for your pet.