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Is Hemp Legal in the U.S. and Canada for Pets?

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Is Hemp Legal in the U.S. and Canada for Pets?

There’s a lot of buzz out there about CBD products for pets. Since they hit the mass market, doting pet parents have been investigating their potential health benefits. 

This is no surprise since the American Pet Products Association estimates that U.S. pet parents spent 95.7 billion on pet food, treats, over-the-counter treatments, vet care and other services in 2019. Translation: That’s a lot of money and a lot of love for our pets..While hemp-derived CBD products are new in the wellness space, they’re quickly becoming mainstream. Some national pet stores are even starting to carry these products. 

But there are still a lot of questions about the legality of CBD products for pets, and their legal status is different depending on where you live. 

Are Hemp-Derived CBD Products Legal for Pets?

Woman walking dog outside

Because these products are so new, recent and rapid changes are still taking place regarding the legal status of hemp products for both humans and pets in the U.S.

The federal 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from its definition of marijuana, effectively making hemp-derived CBD products for pets legal in the U.S.

To break that down, marijuana remains a schedule 1 drug but hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% of THC are legal.

We’ll put it one more way: hemp-derived CBD products are available and legal as supplements, as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC.

Keep in mind that not all CBD supplements for pets are created equal. They may not be processed the same way or have the same testing and quality standards. Learn more about how to choose a safe and effective CBD supplement for your pet.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is outlining marketing, labeling and claims rules for companies that make hemp-derived products. But demand is outpacing regulatory changes

Labeling and Claims on CBD Products for Pets

Many consumers claim to see benefits from using CBD products in their pets, including:

  • Reduction in chronic pain and inflammation
  • Reduction in anxiety
  • Help for other conditions

In fact, in my own practice we have seen promising results when implementing cannabis into a pet’s protocol.  

However, it is not legal for hemp-derived products to make the same kinds of claims that pet medications do. CBD products designed for pets CANNOT claim to provide treatment for or cure any medical issue. 

Research about the impact of hemp CBD products in dogs and cats is still limited. Much of what we know about the use of hemp CBD is anecdotal or has been inferred from human medicine. 

We need a lot more research to be conducted, especially on different molecules of the plant—not just CBD. More detailed research on each compound in the plant can help establish and confirm what each part of the plant can or cannot do. But this will take time. We’ve only just now begun to understand this for human cannabis. 

CBD Products: Differences in State and Federal Regulations 

hemp plant

In order to understand the legality of CBD products for pets, it’s important to understand the laws and regulations for humans at both the state and federal level.

Marijuana Regulation

U.S. federal law does not recognize or protect medicinal marijuana possession or use. Even if medicinal marijuana is legal in your state, the federal government can still prosecute you for possession and/or use. 

Even so, more and more states have legalized the medical use of marijuana, creating tension between state and federal marijuana regulations.

Hemp-Derived CBD Regulation

Hemp and marijuana are not the same, even though CBD can be extracted from both. 

Hemp products are legal in the U.S. If the CBD comes from hemp plants and the products contain less than 0.3% THC (the intoxicating compound in marijuana) by dry weight at the time of harvest, the CBD products are legal at the federal level.

However, if the CBD comes from a marijuana plant, it is still considered illegal. 

Are Hemp and CBD Products Legal in Canada?

The short answer is yes. There are many caveats to this though. In Canada, marijuana is legal and regulated at the federal level. 

  • Canada’s Cannabis Act places all phytocannabinoids on the prescription drug list. CBD is included here. 
  • Human marijuana and hemp products with CBD require a prescription from a doctor.

However, there are currently no approved CBD drugs for pets in Canada. The only legal way to buy cannabis products for your pet in Canada is by purchasing “veterinary health products” that have hemp in them. These products can be bought via retail avenues and are regulated. 

Do I Need a Prescription for Pet CBD Products?  

In the U.S., you DO NOT need a prescription for pet products that contains CBD. That said, it’s critical you do your research to find a reputable source for those products. 

A 2017 Penn Medicine study found that only 30% of 84 CBD extracts bought online matched the label’s claims within 10% of the amount claimed on the labels. In fact, many contained more THC than the 0.3% maximum allowed. 

Research companies before you buy. Buy from a trustworthy company that is transparent about where their products are sourced and straightforward about their claims. Any company over-promising or making curative claims about hemp-based products should be avoided. 

Find out more about how to pick a safe product for your pet.

In Canada, you DO need a prescription for CBD, however there are no approved CBD drugs for pets in Canada. Veterinarians aren’t allowed to prescribe, dispense or administer cannabis products to their patients. Instead, you can buy regulated “veterinary health products” directly. 

A list of Canada’s veterinary health products is listed on Health Canada’s website. These products are regulated by the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR). However, regulations and legal issues are changing quickly! Stay up to date at the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine’s website. 

Can My Veterinarian Recommend CBD for My Pet?

woman talking to male veterinarian

The answer to this question is complicated, and it depends largely on your location, your veterinarian’s comfort level with CBD products, and your veterinarian’s knowledge of state laws.

There is still a lot of confusion within the profession about what veterinarians can legally discuss and what they can’t in regard to cannabis use in pets. Some may even choose to avoid the topic altogether. 

Keep in mind—your veterinarian is mandated by the state veterinary medical board. The board can limit how much your vet is allowed to guide you with CBD products.

If you are interested in using CBD products as part of your pet’s care regimen, ask your veterinarian about the rules in your state. Many veterinarians are advocating to have the agency they need to help guide you on which products are safe for your pet. Let your veterinarian know if you’re interested in guidance–even if they cannot currently provide it.

Follow these tips to have a proactive conversation about CBD products with your veterinarian. 

Legal Status of CBD for Pets: The Bottom Line

cbd oil and hemp plant

The legal landscape around CBD for pets is still evolving at both the state and federal level. But here is what you need to know about the current laws: 

  •  In the United States, hemp products that contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight are legal in all 50 states and allowed to be sold as supplements. However, the FDA has not approved any hemp-derived CBD product as a drug for animal use. 
  • No veterinary products are allowed to make claims of treatment for CBD products, but much anecdotal evidence is available regarding potential benefits for pets.
  • Additional research is needed to better understand and verify how CBD products impact specific medical conditions in pets.
  • In Canada, only “veterinary health products” made from hemp are legal without a prescription.
  • Your veterinarian may have limited ability to recommend or endorse CBD products. Consider asking them what their own familiarity with it is, and what they’re allowed to do regarding these supplements in your state.

You want the best for your pet. Seek out products manufactured for pets from a reputable company and get your veterinarian’s opinion to find out if your pet may benefit from hemp-based products. A simple conversation and good research can help steer you in the right direction for your pet! 

Dr. Trina Hazzah, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), CVCH