Cannabis Infused Pet Treats are Likely Heading for Mainstream California Retailers in 2020

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The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opened a 3-month window to receive public comments about the mostly misunderstood cannabis compound known by the masses as CBD in their incredibly slow process of trying to decide exactly how to regulate it after they made it legal nationwide. Once the ink dried on the signatures of the 2018 Farm Bill, the hemp plant – or any cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC content – was no longer considered a controlled substance and essentially became. . . well. . . a weed.

It’s almost as if the feds forgot that there is a multibillion dollar industry attached to those newly freed hemp/cannabis plants once they’ve been stripped of their varying levels of THC and up until Tuesday of last week, the FDA wanted to know what you, the American citizen, had to say about the non-intoxicating CBD compound now cropping up in products in countless forms in all 50 states.

Now that they’ve had a week to begin to parse the feedback that they received, we know that the FDA got 4,269 public comments and that ruff-ly 4% of them had to do with the health benefits of CBD. . . not with humans, but with their pets. I know quite a few people personally who have had success treating a variety of ailments in their furry friends using cannabis-based remedies, but I don’t need to look any further than the crew here at Beard Bros. for evidence of how well cannabis and canines mix.

A BRO’S BEST FRIEND

Bill and Jeff each have a dog at home that benefits from bud just as much as the Bros. do.

Bill’s pup is named Archimedes. “Arch” is a 9-ish-year old shelter-rescued Red Nosed Pit who, like most of us, is perfectly friendly unless you push him too far. One thing that really crinkles his snoot, however, is really loud noises – like 4th of July festivities. This year, though, Bill has Archimedes on a regular regimen of products from Sana Sana Formulas. Even though their THC-dominant formulas are not advertised for pets specifically, Bill knows that the quality of their products is good enough for him to take for aches, pains, and overall physical and mental wellness. The ability to dose them easily made it an easy choice for helping his doggo stay calm and relaxed as well. Bill found that a microdose of 1-5mg of THC greatly reduced his dog’s anxiety levels for the past couple of months, even during this year’s Independence Day hoopla in LA.

Jeff with Smokey (left) and Archimedes (right)

Jeff with Smokey (left) and Archimedes (right)

Jeff’s pooch is a 14-year old attention hog named Smokey – a black and white Lab-Pit mix who will easily Jedi Mind Trick you into scratching her back for infinity. Jeff has added a low dose THCA/CBD tincture to her morning meal every day for the past two years or so and he attributes the benefits that she receives from that steady flow of cannabinoids to what’s keeping her up and active and always ready for more backscratchin’.

Did you notice the twist there? While the feds slow walk their way to deciding on how to regulate the use of hemp-derived CBD, these two brothers who actually understand how the plant works from the roots on up are making sure that their own animals are getting some THC as well.

While the FDA figures things out in D.C., lawmakers here in California are moving right along with state-level legislation regarding the infusion of CBD into consumer goods like foods, beverages, and cosmetic or holistic health products. We have extensively covered the pros and cons of AB 228, California’s conduit to sidestepping the federal government and allowing hemp-derived CBD products to be sold statewide (including in licensed cannabis dispensaries). Now we will take a closer look at another piece of cannabis-related legislation rapidly advancing through the Senate side of the statehouse, Senate Bill 627 which looks to lay down the law on medical marijuana products specifically pertaining to veterinary medicine.

SAFE ACCESS FOR ALL (PETS)

SB 627 has not only been cruising through the often grinding process of advancing legislation, but it has been gaining wide-ranging support and more fangs of its own along the way. After unanimous “Aye”, or “Yes”, votes in the Senate Business Professions and Economic Development Committee (9-0), the Senate Appropriations Committee (6-0), and on its 3rd reading on the Senate Floor (33-0), the Bill was referred to the Assembly Business and Professions Committee earlier this month, on July 9th. There it also enjoyed majority support (17-2) and was further amended to give it even more strength and further expand access to cannabis for pets.

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But first, to understand what SB 627 aims to achieve at its core, here is the official statement in support of the bill from The American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine, and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association: ”Thousands of people are currently using cannabis for their pets with questionable advice from the internet or potentially unreliable advice from budtenders. Pet owners deserve the most reliable information possible regarding their pet’s health and well-being. That information and advice is expected to come from trusted veterinarians.“

So, if passed as originally written, SB 627 would allow California-licensed veterinarians to discuss potential cannabis treatment options with pet owners and even write a recommendation for that pet owner to go obtain medical marijuana products for their pets, even if they do not use the plant themselves or hold their own medical marijuana card.

The new law would protect these licensed veterinarians from any repercussions against their own business license due to their inclusion of cannabis in treatment options, but it would strictly prohibit vets from having a financial stake in any sort of cannabis company, from advertising or promoting any specific cannabis company, or from selling cannabis products direct to the consumers themselves or administering such products directly to animal patients. They can recommend it, that’s it.

It also mandates that cannabis be the primary active ingredient so that wooks won’t be giving their dogs medicated Nerds Ropes or Kratom/Kush hybrid treats.

But, as we mentioned, throughout the lawmaking process, bills can be amended and SB 627 has gained some key upgrades as it makes its way toward a seemingly inevitable landing on Governor Newsom’s desk.

First and foremost, in its most recent hearing on July 9th, all language regarding veterinarian recommendations was essentially stricken so that now, if the law passes as updated, anyone 21 years or older will be able to buy products loaded with not just CBD, but THC as well, in any retail store you can imagine – but only if it is for their pet. It will not be limited to dispensaries unless more changes are made. Growing up, the neighbor kid used to eat dog food. . . he’s probably stoked about this potential news.

Other changes were mostly superficial but necessary in order to continue battling back against the anti-cannabis stigma so deeply ingrained into our society. For example, in the original text of the bill anytime it referenced a veterinarian it prefaced the term with the word ‘qualified’. A recent amendment struck ALL uses of the word qualified and replaced it with “California licensed”. It may seem insignificant, but licensed vets are “qualified” by the very nature of the positions they hold and the practices they run.

Similarly, early language suggested that veterinarians should be made to take cannabis-focused continuing education courses in order to be able to talk about the plant with pet owners. A new amendment omits that horseshit as well, as human doctors are not made to take such courses in order to talk pot with patients. It matters. Otherwise we allow them to start forming sub-classes of vets, creating division in the profession.

Those two changes effectively squashed the opposition’s argument.  Opposing SB 627, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) wrote that a “designation for one product is inappropriate.” Eliminating the term ‘qualified’ and the need for continuing education rendered their concerns moot.

If passed this year, the superseding Veterinary Medical Board will have until January 1st of 2020 to “adopt guidelines for veterinarians to follow when discussing cannabis within the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.”

Will it pass this year though?

IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT

There are basically 10 steps for a bill to become law in the state of California. Now imagine that dope Schoolhouse Rock theme song because we’re going to break it down for you real quick.

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1. The Idea – Ideas come from everywhere and can come from anyone. A perfect example is the tireless work being done by our friends at Veterans Cannabis Coalition. They are quite literally writing the ‘Bill of Rights’ for cannabis consumers. The key is to get an Assembly member or Senator to author it and take it to Step 2

2. The Introduction - A lawmaker sends the idea for the bill to the Office of the Legislative Counsel, where it is drafted into bill form. The draft of the bill is returned to that lawmaker for formal introduction. If the author is a Senator, the bill is introduced in the Senate – as is the case with SB 627. If the author is an Assembly Member, the bill is introduced in the Assembly.

3. First Reading - At a bill's first reading, the clerk reads the bill number, the author’s name, and the full title of the bill. It is then sent over to the Office of State Printing where it must be in print for 30 days, giving time for public review, before it can move to the next step.

4. Committee Hearings – The bill will be assigned to specific policy committees depending on its subject matter. These legislative committee hearings are open to the public and testimony is given in support and opposition of the bill. It is during these hearings that most amendments are added to the language of the bill as each lawmaker looks to mark their territory on it.

5. Second Reading – Once out of the committee phase, the bill is read a 2nd time on the floor of the house of origin, and is then advanced to the next step

6. Third Reading – (You might be tired of readings, and reading, by now, but hang in there!) When a bill is read for the third time it is explained by the author, debated and discussed by the Members, and finally voted on by a roll call vote. Most pieces of legislation require 27 votes in the Senate in order to move along (SB 627 got 33 votes).

7. The Ol’ Switcheroo - If, like SB 627, a bill passes that 3rd reading, it goes over to the opposite chamber of government (in this case the State Assembly) to repeat that entire process over again. Yep. . .

8. Compromise – Once the other chamber has made its own edits, changes, and amendments, both houses must convene to compare and reconcile their two versions of the legislation. Sometimes the differences are few and far between and easy to negotiate. Other times those differences can lead to the need for more committees, more hearings, more time.

9. Ink & Paper - Once both houses have come to an agreement, the bill goes to the Governor’s desk for a signature. . . or not. As former Cali governor Jerry Brown showed us, nothing is final until the ink is dry on the governor’s signature, though Newsom has so far been a bit of a rubber stamp when his Democratic underlings advance legislation to his desk.

10. Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Once signed, the bill is delivered to the Secretary of State for one final legal review and then it is stamped with the Great Seal of the State of California and entered into the California Codes that define the state’s laws.

So, as you can see, SB 627 is somewhere in limbo between Steps 6 and 7, or roughly halfway to its goal. However, the law is explicitly written with a mandate to implement it by the end of this year. The state legislature adjourns on August 31st and Gov. Newsom then has until September 30th to either sign or veto any legislation that has made it up the ladder to him. If he fails to act one way or the other, the bill automatically becomes law.

So we will know by October for sure if SB 627 will become a reality or not.

A BONE TO PICK

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There is really not much to say in opposition to SB 627 if you are an advocate of cannabis and its many healing capabilities. . . BUT, the amount of support that a bill like this can generate among our lawmakers to protect and empower the veterinarians in our society while those same politicians continue to neglect and discourage that same safe access to cannabis for the military veterans in our society is unacceptable.

The fact that a 21 year old will be able to walk into a pet store and purchase THC-infused treats for a pet but a 21-year old military vet is not afforded those same rights for their own well-being is embarrassing. Similarly, we have witnessed dozens of arrests and tons of cannabis destroyed in statewide raids over the past month or two. The contrast between getting your Pomeranian zooted on weed while human beings still sit behind bars for it is also glaring.

SB 627 is one giant step for pets, and an even bigger fuck you to a lot of the people most affected by cannabis prohibition.