To legalize it or not? The national debate continues over marijuana and hemp-derived products.
There’s lots of buzz in the news right now about the potential health benefits of taking CBD oil. Cancer patients, arthritis suffers, epileptics, chronic pain sufferers… all tell stories of near-miraculous improvements in their conditions since beginning CBD supplementation.
But there’s a lot of misinformation floating about… And people don’t understand:
Is CBD legal? Does it make you high like marijuana?
And … do the potential health benefits extend to dogs, too?
To understand, first let’s talk about what causes the “high” … and the KEY DIFFERENCE between marijuana and hemp (everyone gets this confused) … and how these differences impact law makers decisions about what’s “legal” and what’s not.
The cannabis plant is a special species that contains as many as 400 different cannabinoids, which are substances that affect the functioning of your immune system.
The two most common cannabinoids in cannabis are cannabinol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Together, they make up almost 40 percent of all cannabinoids within cannabis.[ii]
The main difference between THC and CBD is where these cannabinoids attach to your body:
- THC links to CB1 receptors in the brain and controls your mental state (why it’s associated with the “high” of pot).
- While CBD triggers a healing response, by connecting with muscles, controlling inflammation, and stimulating an immune response through CB2 sensors. [iii]
That’s why THC is renowned for producing a mental “high” while CBD is linked with improved immune response and healing.
Research about how, exactly CBD works is still being done, but evidence shows it has impressive potential for reducing pain and inflammation. [iv] Plus, it stimulates an immune system response… turning healing on, and turning pain off … as opposed to just masking pain like other medications.
But is it legal to give CBD to your dog?
Like with humans, that depends on where your CBD comes from and where you live. Understanding the details begins with knowing the difference between hemp and marijuana.
Hemp Verse Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, hemp and marijuana are NOT the same.
Instead, both plants share a common ancestor: cannabis sativa.
Generations of selective breeding have split them into separate species, and they both contain varying amounts of cannabinoids. The amount of each substance within the plant depends on whether the strain grown was classified as hemp or marijuana.
Hemp is a tall, fibrous plant that is frequently used to make paper, rope, textiles and a variety of industrial products. The seeds are also valued as a food source, and they are processed into cosmetics, lubricants, and paints.
Since hemp is bred for its tensile strength (not cannabinoid content), it tends to have low levels of THC. In fact, the plant must legally contain less than 0.3 percent THC to be classified as hemp.
These low levels mean that hemp is legal to import, ship, and sell across the United States.
And this makes industrial hemp the preferred source of CBD oil.
Marijuana, in contrast, is a shorter, bushier plant that’s cultivated with cannabinoid levels in mind.
The plant is valued for its big flowers with concentrated resin glands that are rich in THC. This is the part of the plant that produces pot’s famous high, and it often contains concentrations of the compound between 20-30%.[vii]
So while you CAN extract CBD from marijuana plants, the THC content is significantly higher.
And this means that in most states, it’s ILLEGAL to sell (or buy) CBD derived from marijuana.
(At the time of writing, eight states allow for the recreational use and purchase of CBD products, and 46 permit it to be used medicinally with a prescription, so long as the amount of THC contained within the product doesn’t top 8%.[xi])
Your Best Choice: CBD Oil From Industrial Hemp
Understanding what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to CBD, marijuana, and THC can be tricky.
Legislation continues to evolve, and it’s different from state to state.
Your best choice, to be certain you’re abiding by the law while still getting the highest quality product, is to purchase CBD Oil that’s derived from organically grown, industrial hemp. It will contain less than the 0.3% THC required by law, and as a dietary supplement sourced from hemp, will be legal to purchase across the country.
The same holds true, whether you’re buying CBD oil for your dog … or for yourself.
(And of course, dogs don’t enjoy the “high” of THC, so common sense should tell you to avoid CBD oil sourced from marijuana with higher concentrations of THC.)
What Do Vets Think About CBD Oil?
Vet opinions vary on the use of CBD oil.
Many don’t yet understand that CBD oil sourced from industrial hemp contains almost ZERO THC (less that 0.3%). So even your vet many not understand that CBD oil from industrial hemp simply CANNOT get your dog “high.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is still in debate about whether medical marijuana should be used on pets, and they state that they won’t approve the use of cannabis for dogs until more research is published on its effectiveness.[xii]
So even though CBD oil from industrial hemp is LEGAL across the entire country, some vets still won’t recommend it.
Likewise, your vet’s ability to recommend or prescribe a CBD product changes based on state lines. In California at the time of writing, people can buy marijuana-derived CBD for recreation, but vets can’t legally recommend giving it to dogs because it has “Schedule 1” classification from the federal government.
This creates a strange dynamic for pet owners.
You can buy CBD oil at your local pet store in some states, but your vet can’t “prescribe” it.
Compounding these factors, many vets are concerned about the fact that the legalization of recreational cannabis has led to more cases of dogs suffering from THC toxicity by accidentally ingesting their owner’s pot supply. Large amounts of psychoactive marijuana can cause severe health problems in dogs, leading some to convulse in seizures or even die. Making the matter especially serious, there isn’t any effective treatment for this toxicity besides just waiting it out.[xv]
Assuming you’ve sourced CBD Oil that’s derived from organic industrial hemp, the next step is getting your dog to take it.
Dogs are rarely willing to take “medicine.”
So how do you make it easy? The #1 recommended method is via a dropper. Either straight into your dog’s mouth, or put a few drops on his/her food.
Some folks like to bake the CBD oil into homemade dog treats. But doing this, you risk destroying the beneficial cannabinoids with the heat. It’s better to simply add tincture drops to your dog’s meal, or hide a few drops in treats. Plus, you have better control over the dosing when you administer it, one serving at a time.
By giving your dog CBD oil with a dropper, you make sure it’s absorbed into their bloodstream quickly, for best results.
(There’s anecdotal evidence that it can stop seizures within 30 seconds of administration.)
What’s An Appropriate Dose?
For best results, you obviously want to give your dog the correct dose of CBD oil.
Read the bottle, and follow manufacturer recommendations. But know that the general recommendation is 1 mg of CBD oil for every 10 lbs your dog weights. Some folks recommend starting with a lower dose (.5 mg/ pound twice a day) and slowly increasing it over five days (up to 2 mg per pound twice a day). [xvii]
Side effects aren’t common, but watch for lethargy, heavy drooling, or vomiting. And obviously discontinue use if your dog experiences any of these.
Making The Right Choice For Your Dog
With all the buzz about the potential health benefits of CBD oil, you may decide to try giving it to YOUR dog.
Especially if you’re got a canine buddy who suffers from arthritis, joint pain, chronic pain, skin conditions, epilepsy, digestive disorders, or a degenerative disease.
Just remember… to make sure you’re buying CBD oil LEGALLY, you should be buying CBD oil derived from industrial hemp. It should also be, ideally, organically grown, free of pesticides and solvents.
Avoid CBD oil derived from marijuana. It will contain high levels of THC, which produce a “high” your dog won’t enjoy. Plus, it’s currently illegal in most states.
And be sure to follow the dosing guidelines laid out by the manufacturer.