Medical pot use spreading to pets | PetsOnBoard.com

The use of marijuana to fight chronic pain and other ailments is spreading to a new group of San Diegans that you might not expect: dogs, cats and other household pets.The city’s first legal medical marijuana dispensary in Otay Mesa recently began selling a liquid form of the drug designed to help pets struggling with arthritis, separation anxiety, nausea, loss of appetite and other problems.“My dog’s been on medication for years and he was always vomiting and dealing with other side effects, so when I saw this I knew I had to try it,” said Sandra Moreland, whose dog Vago has an auto-immune disorder, kidney problems and a torn ACL. “It’s been a miracle. There’s been no more vomiting, a lot less pain and he’s just a happier dog.”While most animal advocacy groups don’t support giving marijuana to pets because of a lack of research on the subject, customers using the drug typically rave about it in similar fashion to Moreland, said Zach Lazarus, owner of the Otay dispensary.“It’s been more popular than predicted and it’s selling very well,” Lazarus said. “It seems to really be working well for a lot of people and their pets.”The drug doesn’t get pets stoned because the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — THC — has been removed, said Dr. Tim Shu, the veterinarian who created it. Shu said he makes the medicine by isolating marijuana’s cannabidiol or CBD, the element of the drug most often credited with pain relief and other medicinal benefits.Shu’s product, called “vetCBD,” is sold in more than two dozen dispensaries across California, and similar products are being sold elsewhere in the nation.Animal advocacy groups, however, are skeptical.The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says its opposition is based on a lack of research.“There have been no scientifically accepted studies comparing marijuana products to known pain control medications,” said Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA’s poison control center. “In addition, research hasn’t been able to adequately define what a safe and effective does of marijuana would be.”People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said it could support marijuana for pets if it could be shown to actually work, but that there are doubts about whether people will use it responsibly.“If proper administration of marijuana can truly relieve dogs’ pain, then they should be given the same consideration that humans in pain are given, with regular doses to help reduce their misery,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, a PETA senior vice president. “But it’s an entirely different matter to amuse oneself by getting the cat drunk or the dog high. In fact, it sounds like something only a total pothead or moron would do.”Dr. Shu’s partner, Don Duong, said thousands of testimonials from pet owners make him optimistic the tide of public opinion will turn in support of marijuana for pets when additional studies are completed.“The research hasn’t caught up with the anecdotal evidence,” he said.Duong also said Shu has significantly advanced the safety of giving marijuana to pets by devising a complex dose chart based on the species, breed and size of an animal.“We’ve heard stories of people blowing pot smoke in their pet’s faces or making their own concoctions,” said Duong. “We’ve taken all the guesswork out of it.”Vetcbd comes in one-ounce bottles that sell for $40 each. Owners give the drug to pets by squirting it into their mouths with a syringe or spreading it over their normal food like salad dressing.Because consuming marijuana edibly instead of smoking it prolongs the drug’s effect, an animal can achieve around-the-clock symptom relief with just two doses per day, he said.Duong said the drug can extend the lives of pets months or even years, because people frequently euthanize their pets based on concerns about how much pain they are experiencing.“This can make them active again,” he said. “They can move around and lead more normal lives again because this relieves the aches and pains pets get when they are older.”Because marijuana — even with the THC removed — is illegal under federal law, vetCBD and similar drugs can only be sold at legally permitted dispensaries. And it can only be sold to pet owners who have gotten a medical marijuana prescription from a doctor, which is only a small percent of residents in San Diego and the nation.“We tell pet owners who don’t have a medical marijuana card that we don’t want them to do anything unethical, but that it’s fairly well known it’s pretty easy to get a card if you really want one,” Duong said.An additional hurdle locally is that San Diego County has only three legally permitted dispensaries, the Outliers Collective on county land near El Cajon and two in the city: A Green Alternative in Otay and the Point Loma Patients Cooperative in the Midway district.But the city has approved nine more dispensaries this year that are all expected to open by next summer.Moreland, who lives in Bonita, said convenience will make a

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