Legislators in New York seem to think so. Recently, Democrat Amy Paulin introduced legislation that would allow veterinarian in New York to certify pets for the medical cannabis program. However, Paulin has not found a sponsor in the Senate.
What Does the Legislation Say?
The argument for the legalization of medical marijuana for pets is simple: Since many people benefit from medical marijuana, animals with similar medical conditions can also benefit.
The bill states, “Research suggests that animals can also benefit from cannabis use to similarly treat their ailments.”
For pets with chronic illnesses or those who traditional treatment methods have not been effective, animal owners would be given the option to use medical marijuana to bring relief to their suffering pet.
Will the Legislation Make it to the Floor?
Unfortunately, no. With no co-sponsor in the Assembly and no sponsor in the Senate, the bill faces an uphill battle. In addition, Governor Andrew Cuomo is not rushing to support any medical cannabis legislation. So, even if the bill were to pass both the Assembly and Senate, it may end up “dead-on-arrival” when it reaches the governor’s desk.
There is some good news for the bill’s supporters. Representative Richard Gottfried, a longtime proponent of medical cannabis and chair of the Assembly Health Committee, received the bill. Gottfried was the lead sponsor for legislation in 2014 for New York’s medical cannabis program.
Growing support across the country is building for the use of medical marijuana for people suffering from a wide variety of ailments who are seeking relief. Research continues to prove the benefits of cannabis oil in treating a variety of conditions.
Veterinarians and pet owners, in states such as Nevada, where medical cannabis for pets is allowed, are finding that there are many positive benefits for dogs. When used as an alternative medication to treat cancer, seizures, or even anxiety, cannabis oil is gaining popularity.
What is Cannabis Oil?
Derived from the marijuana plant, cannabis oil is extracted from the flowers of the plant. Marijuana flowers contain trichomes. These are glands on the plant that contain essential oils. When separated from the plant, scientists formulate these oils to identify the perfect ratio of cannabinoids.
Cannabinoid is a class of chemical compounds that act on certain receptors and alter the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. There are two main constituents in the marijuana plant: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is the psychoactive compound that gives users the “high” feeling and CBD does not. However, CBD has been found to provide anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic effects for users.
Scientists have isolated 113 different cannabinoids from cannabis which exhibit varied effects. Epilepsy, inflammatory conditions, multiple sclerosis pain, and even certain addictions have been treated successfully with CBD.
For pet owners who are worried that Fido will become addicted to marijuana, Dr. Gary Richter, an Oakland, California veterinary medical director, states, “Depending on the nature of the product, if it contains little or no THC, then the dog is not going to get high.”
What Are Some of the Benefits for Dogs Who Take Cannabis Oil?
When the cannabinoids in marijuana connect with the endocannabinoid system, relief for pain, anxiety, or even nausea is felt. A series of receptors runs throughout the body. The cannabinoids interact with these receptors bringing many dogs relief. In addition, with proper dosage, there are no life-threatening side effects, unlike some other traditional medications that are prescribed by doctors. The kidneys, liver, or GI tract are not damaged by cannabis oil.
Some common health conditions in dogs that cannabis oil has been found beneficial in treating include:
- Back Pain
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Cancer symptoms
What Are Some of the Potential Risks for Dogs Who Take Cannabis Oil?
Since a minute amount of THC is in cannabis, not enough for the pet to get “high,” but enough to be detected, if a pet receives an overdose of cannabis oil, the effects may last for days. THC toxicity can be a very noticeable side-effect of an overdose of cannabis oil. The pet may be unable to stand or eat.
However, these types of life-threatening risks are very rare. In fact, a pet is more likely to have an adverse reaction to chocolate, coffee, or raisins. Still, there have been recorded cases of dogs who have ingested large amounts of marijuana and died. Therefore, Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinary advisor with petMD advises that preventing overdoses with medical cannabis is still extremely important. As with any medication given to a pet, consult a veterinarian first.
How Do I Administer Cannabis Oil to My Dog?
There are some topical treatments available, but typically, cannabis oil is administered to dogs orally. Cannabis oil does not interfere with other traditional medications and treatments. In fact, research suggests that marijuana and traditional medications share “synergistic benefits.”
Dosing should be done properly to prevent any negative side-effects such as psychoactive reactions. If a pet is dosed properly, they should only have a positive effect and no psychoactive effects.
However, there is a problem with dosage regulations for dogs…there are none. Coates suggests that until there is sufficient research done to determine the correct dosage for CBD oil in dogs, pet parents should take the time to talk to a veterinarian who is already experienced with treating pets with cannabis oil. Information about proper dosage and reputable manufactures is akin to gold.
Where Can I Get Cannabis Oil for My Dog?
Depending on which state a person lives in and the state’s marijuana laws, obtaining medical cannabis for a pet may be as easy as pulling out a person’s medical cannabis card. Since there are no medical cannabis cards for animals, a person must first speak to a veterinarian who is familiar with proper dosage amounts. Then, they can purchase cannabis oil with their personal medical marijuana card and administer the proper dosage to their pet. Pet parents who live in states where there are no medical marijuana laws may opt for hemp products that contain lower amounts of THC.
It is obvious that much additional research needs to be conducted on proper dosage amounts, the numerous benefits to cannabis oil for pets, and any side effects that may yet be known.
For many years, natural healers and many in the medical community have understood the power of cannabis in helping to treat chronic pain. Active compounds in cannabis, particularly cannabidiol, or CBD, have been shown anecdotally and in scientific studies to bring about pain relief in test subjects. While research is still needed to determine dosing accuracy and frequency, advances in our understanding of CBD oils derived from cannabis have been achieved. Of note is a recent study conducted by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, which investigated a hemp oil product made for dogs suffering from chronic pain conditions. In this article, we will discuss the study as well as the background on hemp oil in treating a number of health conditions.
What is Cannabidiol?
Before discussing the CBD oil study conducted by Cornell University, it can be beneficial to introduce cannabidiol, one of numerous active chemical compounds found in cannabis. In medical marijuana production and use, CBD and a similar compound called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are the focus of research. These two compounds are classed as cannabinoids, of which there are hundreds of examples. THC is the chemical compound that produces feelings of euphoria. In other words, THC is psychoactive, producing the “high” that recreational marijuana users desire.
CBD, on other hand, is not a psychoactive cannabinoid. Medical patients who rely on cannabis for relief may not want the side effects that THC brings to the table; for those with chronic pain, the debilitating high can get in the way of function and daily activity. Cannabis strains with high percentages in CBD were developed to provide these patients the relief they need without the disordered thinking and euphoria that is associated with THC. CBD oil derived from these strains boasts little, if any, of the psychoactive THC compound. Some states that have not legalized medical marijuana use, sale, and possession still allow CBD oil to be sold in the state, provided that THC levels are non-existent in those oil products.
The Cornell University Study
In a partnership with ElleVet Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University conducted a research study centered on a hemp oil product manufactured by ElleVet. The goal of the study was to determine the effectiveness of ElleVet’s Mobility soft chews in controlling pain and soreness in dogs. The study took place over an eight-month period and was designed as a placebo-controlled and double blind investigation – the first of its kind in the veterinary sciences. In addition to investigating the pain relief potential of the product, another component of the study was to determine dosage scheduling and dosage rate. Investigating how the product was metabolized and its exact chemical effect was also part of the research study.
ElleVet’s Mobility soft chews contain CBD derived from hemp oil as well as two other compounds, chondroitin and glucosamine, known to provide improvements in joint mobility in animals and humans. In the study, over 80% of dogs who used the soft chews experienced substantial reductions in pain, resulting in improved mobility. This was especially true for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis, chronic joint pain, geriatric pain and discomfort, and the loss of mobility resulting from age. Geriatric dogs in the study showed the most dramatic improvements in functional mobility. Researchers involved in the study endorsed the product, describing it as a “game changer” for the veterinary medical community. Further studies need to be conducted, but the partnership between ElleVet and Cornell University is already lining up new investigations. First, the group will research the effectiveness of the Mobility soft chews on mitigating surgical and oncological pain in dogs. Next, ElleVet’s hemp oil product developed for cats will also be investigated in a similar study to the original dog-oriented one.
CBD Oil in Scientific Studies
Cannabinoids have been studied by health researchers for many years. CBD, the active cannabinoid credited with pain relief, has been the focus of nearly 25,000 published studies. CBD oil is credited with many health benefits borne out by exhaustive research. Among these health benefits are:
- Anti-anxiety properties
- Chronic pain relief
- Anti-inflammatory action
- Reduction in seizure frequency in epileptic patients
For the commercial cannabis cultivator, high-CBD strains represent a unique opportunity to bring science-backed health benefits to the medical marijuana community. Edibles and concentrates produced from these strains are proving popular with medical cannabis patients and have found acceptance even in states where a stigma on cannabis consumption is still in existence. Eliminating the psychoactive high from the equation has been a game-changer for many in the medical cannabis production industry, allowing their products to be sold in states that have not yet legislated medical marijuana use and possession. The future is bright for the medical cannabis community, thanks to groundbreaking studies like the Cornell University investigation in treating patients struggling with chronic pain.
Hemp production has soared in the past year. The number of licensed producers and acres of cultivation space in the top 10 hemp-growing states grew by 140 percent. The number of licensed hemp producers rose from 609 in 2016 to over 1,200 in 2017. Additionally, the number of acres licensed for hemp cultivation also rose from 16,377 acres in 2016 to almost 40,000 acres in 2017.
States such as Kentucky, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont are the top 10 hemp producing states in the U.S.
The Reason for the Spike in Production
Increasing acceptance for hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) oil, in addition to relaxed state level regulations allowed U.S. hemp production to surge in 2017. This increase is only the beginning for the fledgling hemp industry in the United States.
Since full-fledged hemp cultivation is still illegal at the federal level, the plant that produces hemp and CBD oil can only be grown in states that have an established hemp program. There are still lingering questions about the legality of hemp-based extracts, such as CBD oils. Farmers are also still learning the optimal growing processes. It is unclear the demand for products made from hemp grown in the U.S. However, CBD which is derived from hemp is soaring in popularity.
Brightfield Group, a cannabis research firm, estimates that the demand for hemp-based products will increase from $291 million in 2017 to over $1.65 billion by 2021. This increase in demand has prompted U.S. farmers who have grown more traditional crops to look into growing hemp as a replacement for lower-valued crops such as cotton or alfalfa.
Certain states have shown support to the fledgling industry by allowing more growers into their hemp programs and relaxing regulations to acreage limits. States that have shown increases in hemp production are set to cash in on the bull market of the next few years.
More than half of the United States hemp production occurred in Colorado. Even though Kentucky has more licensed acres, Colorado has more acres in production, farmers who grow the crop, more CBD processors, and more opportunities for selling hemp plants. Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana and in 2012, farmers began to grow the crop for cultivation.
Due to Kentucky’s well-suited growing climate, former tobacco farmers are taking a strong interest in hemp. The state’s willingness to experiment and invest in hemp processing and growing makes Kentucky a leader in the hemp growing industry. Kentucky has the most acres authorized for growing hemp in the nation at 12,800 acres. However, only 3,200 acres were planted in the bluegrass state.
With a well-established network of hemp processors and growers, along with a new testing regime, Oregon has grown in its position in the hemp industry. With new laws on testing requirements that have been passed in 2017, Oregon hemp products have the same testing regulations as marijuana. This means that all hemp products that come from Oregon will be food-grade quality and pesticide and contaminant tested.
As a future leader in hemp, North Dakota has more than 3,000 acres in active production. However, North Dakotas cold climate and recent drought have limited hemp’s potential to thrive. In addition to the natural determents to growing hemp in the state, high production costs and expensive seed costs that are higher than typical row crops, do not help entice farmers to grow hemp.
Since 2016, Minnesota has allowed farmers to grow hemp. In fact, there is an abundance of wild hemp from World War II-era crops. With a climate similar to Canada, varieties already grown in the neighbor to the north are a natural fit for the state. Unfortunately, no hemp farmer has reported a profit as of yet. Processing delays, legal confusion, and natural pests make growing hemp difficult for many farmers.
Governor Andrew Cuomo helped establish the hemp industry in New York in 2017 when he invited entrepreneurs to compete for development grants in excess of $5 million. These grants were a first in the nation. Most state programs are funded mostly by feeds paid by farmers, but New York’s decision to invest in promoting hemp cultivation and processing has allowed New York to be a frontrunner in the hemp industry.
For a state once dominated by textile manufacturing and tobacco farming, officials in North Carolina see hemp as a natural fit for farmers. In 2017, North Carolina finished the growing season with more growers, acres, and processors than any other state in the first year of hemp production.
The climate in Tennessee has created a challenge for hemp farmers. High humidity and a 50-plus inch per year rainfall makes it difficult to grow a plant that thrives in an arid climate. However, Tennessee hemp entrepreneurs are trying to develop strains for a damper climate. The state also has no legal restrictions in selling hemp products. The state also permits CBD extraction which is highly valuable.
With the nation’s most lenient hemp regulations, Vermont’s latitude makes it easy for hemp cultivars that were developed in northern Europe and Canada. However, hemp producers may be under an entirely new set of guidelines as the state implements regulations for recreational marijuana.
Nevada hemp farmers are selling their products as quickly as they can produce them. There is a booming demand for flower in CBD production. Prices of up to $350 per pound are being seen for quality, high-CBD varieties. This is almost 10 times what Colorado growers receive for midgrade hemp flower. In addition, Nevada growers are increasing the amount of acreage and processing equipment. Farmers in the state are hoping that they can cash in on the boom before states that have a better water supply and a milder climate overtake the market. Growers in Nevada are also expecting a challenge from California growers, so they are looking for new hemp uses in the industrial markets and animal feed.
Although the market players are still unclear about the future of the hemp industry, industry entrepreneurs and policymakers are forging ahead and hopeful about the industry’s future.
Hemp. It is one of the oldest crops known to man, and it is also one of the most misunderstood plants. Now, New York is expanding its hemp research program.
What Is Hemp?
The cannabis plant has many different varieties. Hemp is often referred to as industrial hemp and contains less than 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element in marijuana. Both marijuana and hemp are obtained from the same cannabis species, but hemp is genetically different than marijuana, along with chemical makeup and cultivation methods.
What Does Hemp Do?
Hemp is a renewable source for raw materials that is often incorporated into thousands of products. Health foods, organic body care, and pharmaceutical-grade and standardized nutrients called nutraceuticals.
The stalks and fibers are used for producing hemp clothing, construction materials, biofuel, plastic composites, paper, and even more. In fact, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) estimated that hemp products sold last year in the U.S. topped a whopping $620 million in the retail market. Unfortunately, 100% of the raw hemp materials were imported from other countries.
Farmers have historically used rotation crops to replace CO2 and other nutrients into the soil that regular crops have depleted. Even Thomas Jefferson recognized the importance of crop rotation. Hemp breathes in CO2, detoxifies the soil, and prevents soil erosion. After harvest, the left-over plant material decomposes into the soil and replenishes valuable nutrients. In addition, hemp does not require much water to grow or pesticides to flourish and is much more environmentally friendly than traditional crops.
What Can Be Made from Hemp?
There are a wide variety of items that can be made from the hemp seed, such as:
- Dairy products
- Protein powder
- Body products
- Animal food
The hemp stalk can also be used to make items such as:
- Animal bedding
- Chemical absorbent
- Paper products
What Can Hemp Not Do?
Basically, since hemp varieties contain almost no THC, it cannot get a person high, no matter how much they smoke. The body processes the miniscule amount of THC faster than a person can smoke it. Therefore, there is no way to get high from hemp. Then why is hemp illegal?
Why Is Hemp Illegal?
When the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, cannabis cultivation and sales were strictly regulated. Several decades later, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all forms of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. This included hemp. Schedule I drugs are illegal to grow in the United States. Therefore, 100% of hemp used in the U.S. has been imported since 1970. Due to the almost 50-year prohibition on hemp, most Americans do not understand the differences between marijuana and hemp.
Is Hemp Making a Comeback?
In 2014, the US Farm Bill passed for that year allowed states that already have industrial hemp legislation in their state to grow industrial hemp for research and development purposes. States such as Kentucky, Colorado, and Oregon are conducting hemp pilot products.
Now, New York’s hemp research program is almost doubling from 2,000 acres to more than 3,500 acres. The state has earmarked $650,000 in their budget for a hemp processing plant in addition to $2 million for a state-run hemp seed certification program.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that, under the state’s Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot program, more than 60 new businesses and farms have already received hemp research permits, with another 18 companies registered to process the hemp crops.
The governor released a press release stating, “There is renewed interest in industrial hemp production and processing throughout the country, and with our strong grower community and innovative researchers, New York is in a great position to lead.”
New York’s state Department of Agriculture and Markets Division of Plant Industry is currently accepting applications for proposed hemp research in fiber and food on a continuous basis. Gov. Cuomo announced last year a $5 million Industrial Hemp Processors Grant Fund. He is in favor of providing farmers an alternative crop.
“By providing an alternative crop for our farmers, industrial hemp has the potential to change the landscape of our agricultural economy, create jobs, and drive growth across the Southern Tier and throughout New York,” Cuomo stated.
In 2017, two thousand acres of hemp were cultivated under New York’s state program. Consumer, industrial, and medical products made from hemp accounted for around $600 million in sales yearly in the Empire state.
With a push to legalize cannabis on the federal level and with many states already legalizing medical and recreational cannabis, it is just a matter of time before hemp makes a strong comeback as a viable crop for farmers to grow.
Hemp Research in the United States
Industrial hemp research has been underway in a number of foreign countries for over a decade. The U.S. is far behind in its efforts. The National Hemp Association is partnering with public and private research institutions in the U.S. to help get out their findings as soon as they are published. Currently, hemp research includes uses of hemp for:
- Battery development
- Construction materials
- Paper products
- Body products
- Intensive research into nutraceuticals
The National Hemp Association represents:
- Hemp farmers
- Hemp processors
- Hemp manufacturers
- Start-up businesses in the hemp industry
- Entrepreneurial endeavors
- National and international industries who recognize the benefits of hemp as an ecologically-friendly and versatile material
New York’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program
For New York residents interested in becoming a research partner with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to conduct studies in the food and fiber areas, visit their website at https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/PI/PIHome.html.
They are currently accepting applications for:
- The Industrial Hemp Program Application
- The Industrial Hemp Processor Registration
- The Industrial Hemp Affiliated Research Grower Registration
Currently, the NYS Department of Agriculture is not accepting new applications for cannabinol-related research proposals.
With so many states coming on board to conduct research, hemp may become the new cash crop for farmers across the country.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) changed its language on their website to suggest that the department is open to researching the effects of medical marijuana as a viable treatment option. On the VA’s website, a recent update suggests that research towards the benefits of medical marijuana for Veterans may finally be opening up.
The VA is seeking to clarify its position pertaining to the VA and marijuana. According to the VA Website, they understand that several states have approved marijuana use for medical use. They also reiterate that marijuana and all derivative products are still classified under federal law as a Schedule One controlled substance. Therefore, it is still illegal under federal government laws.
What Does the FDA Have to Do With the VA?
Since the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is mandated to follow all federal laws and the Food and Drug Administration still classifies marijuana as a Schedule One drug, VA doctors and health care providers are not allowed to recommend it or prescribe it to veterans.
However, they are allowed to discuss marijuana use with their patients as part of an overall care plan. This is where the “waters get murky.” The VA states:
- Veterans are still allowed access to VA benefits when marijuana use is reported to their healthcare provider.
- These same Veterans are encouraged to discuss all drug use with their providers.
- The provider will record marijuana use in the veteran’s record as a means to help with treatment planning.
- Clinicians at the VA may not recommend medical marijuana.
- Clinicians may not provide any paperwork for Veterans to allow participation in state-approved marijuana programs.
- Pharmacies at the VA are not to fill any prescriptions for medical marijuana.
- Funds from the VA will not be used to pay for medical marijuana prescriptions.
- Any state laws regarding the possession of marijuana are not in effect when on VA grounds. The VA is a federal facility and federal laws govern any federal facility.
In addition, Carolyn Clancy, M.D. Executive in Charge, emailed a directive to employees of the VA on December 15, 2017, to provide clarification on the VA’s stand on medical marijuana. Some items in the directive include:
- Reason – The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) directive is to provide guidance on access to VHA clinical programs for all Veterans who participate in State-approved marijuana programs.
- Summary of Major Changes – The major change in policy is to add additional support to the Veteran-provider relationship when discussing the impact on health and use of marijuana for any Veteran-specific treatment plans.
This language gives hope to medical marijuana advocates that the VA is finally opening up to investigating the effects of medical marijuana on health problems faced by Veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Marijuana Moments Tom Angell originally reported the change by the VA’s Office of Research & Development. Their website refers to earlier research on medical marijuana saying that in their review they “found limited evidence” where marijuana use helped reduce pain in some patients. In addition, it found that medical marijuana “might reduce spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis,” but found little evidence to determine the direct effect of marijuana on PTSD. VA doctors are not currently able to prescribe medical marijuana to Veterans, but they can look at marijuana as an option in treating medical problems faced by Veterans.
This leads many in the healthcare and marijuana industry to have hope in one day using medical marijuana as a possible treatment option for suffering Veterans. However, this new stance directly conflicts with VA Secretary David Shulkin’s recent letter that announced there would be no agency research on marijuana due to its federal classification as a Schedule I substance.
Shulkin’s letter was in direct response to a request for clarification made by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The U.S. House members want the VA to begin investigating the potential effects of medical marijuana for veterans who suffer with chronic pain and PTSD. Representative Walz, ranking member of the House committee said that Shulkin’s response to their request was “disappointing and unacceptable.”
He went on to say that the VA did not answer their “simple question,” but that they also made an attempt to mislead the committee by claiming, “without citing any specific law, that VA is restricted from conducting research into medical cannabis, which is categorically untrue.”
It seems as if Shulkin has been caught pointing the finger at the FDA for the VA’s lack of interest in researching the benefits of medical marijuana for Veterans.
Pressure Towards the VA Mounts
A recent poll, funded by the American Legion, found that more than 9 out of 10 military veterans desire additional research into medical marijuana and its benefits in treating ailments faced by veterans every day. The new poll by the nation’s largest veterans service organization shows:
- More than ninety-two percent of veterans who support the expansion of research into medical marijuana
- Eighty-three percent of veterans believe that medical marijuana should be legalized by the federal government
- Over eighty percent also favor allowing VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients
American Legion spokesman, Joe Plenzler, told The Cannabist, “We already know that greater than 80% of the American public supports research into the efficacy of medical cannabis. What this survey shows is that America’s veterans feel even more strongly about the need to study cannabis and its potential in treating PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments veterans face every day.”
How the House Committee on Veterans Affairs is Helping
The 10-member group who sit on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is currently urging the Trump administration to study the benefits of medical marijuana for military veterans. Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN) understands the importance of medical marijuana research and how access has become a critical issue to veterans.
The House Representatives who joined Walz in urging President Trump to act include:
- Mark Takano (D-CA)
- Julia Brownley (D-CA)
- Ann McKlane Kuster (D-NH)
- Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
- Kathleen Rice (D-NY)
- J. Luis Correa (D-CA)
- Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP)
- Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)
- Scott Peters (D-CA)
In response, Congress passed a defense bill in December that opened the door for medical marijuana to be approved by the Department of Defense. President Trump signed HR-2810 into law on December 12 which gives the Department of Defense the authority to approve any medical devices or drugs for members of the armed forces, stepping on the toes of the FDA.