PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One Rhode Island lawmaker wants to make it legal for veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana to pets.
Rep. Patricia Serpa made her case to the House Committee on State Government & Elections, testifying virtually she wants to amend an existing medical marijuana law passed several years ago, which extends medical marijuana to people with debilitating medical conditions like MS or glaucoma.
Serpa says she wants the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act to include domestic pets as eligible to use medical marijuana if certified by a licensed veterinarian.
“Some people may scoff at this bill,” Sepra said Monday night. “But those of us who have pets or who have had pets, know that many of us think of them as members of our extended family, and will go to great lengths to provide them comfort and well being, either for a chronic condition or for an end of life condition.”
Serpa says her bill would allow pet owners to purchase medical marijuana for their pet, provided they have a valid prescription from a certified veterinarian.
She added it wouldn’t be mandatory for all vets to offer this service, if the bill were passed.
Veterinarians were not so fast to latch on to the idea.
Dr. Ralph Pratt, who serves on the board of directors for the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association, says the RIVMA cannot support it since most medical marijuana products are considered toxic and have no clinical indications for pets.
He says although veterinary supervision is specified in the bill, the substance would likely not be given under supervision if the pet owners have it available. Pratt says a class example is pet owners giving acetaminophen to cats.
“Acetaminophen in cats, people often give it because people feel that it’s safe, but it leads to multiple organ failure and slow, painful death,” he said.
“So, I feel this bill will, by people making people feel that medical marijuana is okay to give to pets, people will have it available and will go ahead and give it, rather than relieving animal suffering, this is likely to cause increased animal suffering, because, again, we have no clinical indication to use the product,” Pratt continued.
Pratt said veterinarians see toxicity with accidental exposure to small amounts of recreational pot products, which can lead to issues with coordination or agitation. With larger doses in stronger medical products, he says, coma, seizure and death can occur in animals.