CVMA | Policy and Advocacy

Impact of Cannabis Legalization on Veterinarians and their Patients

The CVMA, through a working group within its National Issues Committee, has been actively engaged with the Government of Canada to better understand the impact on veterinarians and their patients of the legalization of cannabis on October 17, 2018.
A recent discussion with Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate (VDD), focused on areas that fall under VDD mandate such as changes to the Prescription Drug List and Vet Health Products.
Health Canada officials emphasized that many questions may be addressed in a guidance document that was posted on the Government of Canada website (see below).
Guidance for health products containing cannabis or for use with cannabis.
Regarding Veterinary Health Products (VHP), the Guidance document states that:
"Veterinary health products (VHPs) are low risk drugs in final dosage form. They are used to maintain or promote the health and welfare of companion and food-producing animals. They are not for use to treat, prevent or cure disease. VHPs contain ingredients such as: vitamins, minerals, and traditional medicines."
Health Canada regulates VHPs through a Notification Program that was launched in November, 2017. Any new VHP containing cannabis that meets parameters listed on the Government of Canada website would continue to be notified under the Notification Program.
Learn more about the Program and how to notify a VHP in Canada: About the VHP Notification Program

What We Know

  • Currently there is no mechanism for veterinarians to prescribe cannabis or cannabis products.
  • Future veterinary health products will still have to meet the criteria listed under the VHP Notification Program.
  • All cannabinoids for human use making health claims will be placed under prescription drugs status. 
  • The same system will be in place for future health claims for the use in animals.
  • Questions on the Cannabis Act and the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) fall to Health Canada’s Cannabis Legalization and Regulation branch, not the Veterinary Drugs Directorate.
  • Discussions on “edibles” for animal use fall under the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation branch and are several months out.
  • Provincial licensing bodies will play a big role going forward.
Health Canada is planning further consultations in the fall. The CVMA will participate and share discussions with members.
Earlier in the year, the CVMA provided feedback to Health Canada on proposed changes under the Cannabis Act. 
CVMA’s letter, dated January 19, 2018, outlined CVMA’s position under three key areas:  
  1. Veterinarians should be included under the definition of “medical practitioner” under the ACMPR. This would allow them to provide access to medication containing cannabinoids to their veterinary patients.
  2. Labelling of human products should include messages to protect the safety of animals 
  3. Certain cannabis products should be included under the low risk Veterinary Health Products category to ensure clients have access to high quality products appropriately prepared for veterinary patients 
Read full letter here.
Overall, the CVMA continues to recognize that further research in both humans and animals is vital to build an evidence base for sound therapeutic decision-making, and the association supports the direction being taken by Health Canada to open up new possibilities for the use of cannabis products to alleviate pain and suffering in animals.