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Practice of Veterinary Medicine in Ontario and Cannabis

July 11, 2019

The College continues to work with Health Canada to understand the application of the Cannabis Act to veterinary medicine. Recent discussions with Health Canada clarified that federal rules under the Cannabis Act do not prohibit a veterinarian from advising clients on the use of legally available recreational cannabis for their pets. The following FAQs will assist veterinarians with understanding their obligations related to advising clients about the use of cannabis for their pets.

What cannabis products can a veterinarian legally advise on?

Under the Cannabis Act, veterinarians are permitted to prescribe and dispense drugs with cannabinoids; however, there are currently no veterinary drugs available on the market. Veterinarians may recommend and sell veterinary health products with hemp that are approved through Health Canada’s Notification Program. Veterinarians may advise clients on the use of legally available recreational cannabis for their pets based on sound professional judgment.

Before advising on the use of a legal recreational cannabis product, what does a veterinarian need to know?

It is important that veterinarians recognize that these products are not indicated for animal use; they are not drugs and do not make health claims. There is little scientific evidence to support the use of cannabis in animals, including safety and efficacy. THC in cannabis has known toxic effects in pets and symptoms of toxicity can be severe. Veterinarians are accountable for any professional advice they provide to a client about their pet.

If a veterinarian chooses to advise on the use of recreational cannabis that their client has obtained legally through the provincial sales outlets, what are their obligations?

If a veterinarian chooses to advise on a legal recreational cannabis product for their client’s pet, they must:

  • Practice within the scope of their clinical competency;
  • Weigh the evidence on cannabis against other available treatment options;
  • Consider the known or suspected risks associated with its use in animals;
  • Obtain informed client consent;
  • Monitor patients and be available in the event of an adverse reaction or failure of treatment; and
  • Be aware of the potential for abuse, diversion and misuse of cannabis.

How can a veterinarian determine if a cannabis product is legal or not?

Veterinarians should not advise on the use of any illegal substance, including cannabis sold on the black market or unapproved cannabinoid products.
The only approved cannabis products for animals available in Canada at this time are veterinary health products made from hemp. These products:
  • Are distinguished from illegal cannabis products for animals by a notification number assigned by Health Canada;
  • Have no concentrated cannabinoids, including CBD;
  • Do not make health claims;
  • Are listed on Health Canada’s website;
  • Are regulated by the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR); and
  • Are sold at retail
Legally purchased recreational cannabis from authorized provincial retail sales outlets can be distinguished from black market cannabis by its packaging. Legal products:
  • Are packaged and labelled according to strict rules set by Health Canada;
  • Have packaging with a CRA excise stamp on it;
  • Do not make health claims;
  • Do not have an indication for animal use; and
  • Undergo quality control to ensure, among other things, that concentrations of CBD and THC that are indicated on the label are accurate, and free of specified contaminants (e.g. certain pesticides).
Resources:
1. Cannabis product package and label mock-up: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/drugs-health-products/summary-comments-public-consultation-regulation-cannabis.html#b1.6
2. Cannabis Excise Stamp (CRA): https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/news/cra-multimedia-library/businesses-video-gallery/cannabis-consumers.html
https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/edn54/general-overview-cannabis-excise-stamps.html#_Toc512931348
3. Veterinary Health Product sample label: https://www.lrvhp.ca/public/documents/view/exampleLabel