Florida senator proposes research into medical marijuana for pets

Lisa Miller, a lobbyist in Florida who has a dog that suffers from epilepsy, spent much of last year pressing her state's senators to legalize medical marijuana for pets. She scored a victory late in the year, when state senator Jeff Brandes introduced a bill suggesting a framework for giving people with chronic illnesses access to the drug--and for researching the effects of marijuana on pets with seizure disorders and other illnesses.

If the bill passes, Florida will be the first state to legalize marijuana research in pets, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Florida legalized medical marijuana, or low-THC cannabis, for people in 2013, but the legislature has been struggling to establish a system for distributing it to patients. In addition to proposing such a system, Brandes' bill, SB 852, would authorize the University of Florida to conduct clinical trials of medical marijuana in animals, though it would prohibit the use of state funds to do so, according to the Democrat.

Brandes told the paper he felt that if studies of medical marijuana in people are legal, the same should be true of research in pets. He added that some pets may benefit from receiving the drug to treat symptoms like pain and seizures. "For dogs suffering at the end of their lives ... it may be a rational use," he told the Democrat.

Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the federal government, veterinarians cannot legally prescribe it. That said, some companies are marketing cannabis-based biscuits for dogs, and there are veterinarians who will prescribe low-THC cannabis, despite laws prohibiting it and advice from the American Veterinary Medical Association, which discourages the practice until there is more research to back it up.

As for Florida lobbyist Miller, she's excited by the prospect that medical marijuana may someday be available for dogs like Dinah, her ailing Labrador-bulldog mix. "Just like all of us who know that low-THC cannabis will be tremendous help to humans with seizures," Miller told the Democrat, "it makes sense that it will have the same effect on those precious friends that we call pets who suffer from these same symptoms."

- here's the Tallahassee Democrat story
- get more on Brandes' bill here