Nevada Law Would Make 'Pot for Pets' Legal

PHOTO: Medical marijuana is dispensed at the Takoma Wellness Center, Oct. 10, 2014, in Takoma Park, DC. Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Medical marijuana is dispensed at the Takoma Wellness Center, Oct. 10, 2014, in Takoma Park, DC.

A new bill introduced in the Nevada state legislature earlier this week would allow owners to give their ailing pets medical marijuana. Many owners across the country said it’s about time, and that “pot for pets” should be legal everywhere.

Becky Flowers, a California ranch owner, said she gave her mare Phoenix regular doses of medical marijuana for several years to help ease the pain of a degenerative joint condition. The horse could barely walk due to extreme swelling in her front legs that traditional and herbal medications didn’t seem to help, Flowers said.

“She would lay there for days and she wouldn’t eat or drink,” Flowers told ABC News.

Flowers said she considered having the animal euthanized but decided as a last ditch effort to give her some of marijuana legally prescribed to her husband who is a paraplegic. In less than an hour, the horse was up and moving, Flowers said.

PHOTO: Becky Flowers gave her horse Phoenix, right, medical marijuana to help ease the pain of a chronic joint condition. Becky Flowers
Becky Flowers gave her horse Phoenix, right, medical marijuana to help ease the pain of a chronic joint condition.

Flowers began giving Phoenix about a tablespoon of medical marijuana in oil every day, she said, noting that the horse lived largely pain-free for two more years before dying in her late twenties. Since then, Flowers has given marijuana to some of her other horses and has recommended it to other horse owners as well.

Medical marijuana does show some promise for easing the pain and suffering in animals, but veterinarians and owners should proceed with caution, said Dr. Robert Silver, president of the veterinary botanical medical association.

“There needs to be a lot more research and education taking place before we introduce this to pets,” Silver said, who is a veterinarian in Colorado, a state where both medical and recreational marijuana are legal for people.

Studies show that dogs in particular react differently than humans to THC, one of marijuana’s active ingredients, Silver said. Because they have a high concentration of THC receptors in the back of their brains, they are susceptible to severe neurologic effects and toxic reactions, he added. States where medical or recreational use is legal have seen an increase in canine emergency room admissions associated with the drug, Silver said.

The American Veterinary Medical Association does not have an official stance on the use of medical marijuana with pets but suggests that vets make treatment decisions based on sound clinical judgment that stay in compliance with the law. They note that even in states where medical marijuana is legal, it is still a Class I narcotic under federal law which means vets are not legally allowed to prescribe it to their patients.

If passed, the Nevada law would allow animal owners to get marijuana for their pet if a veterinarian certifies the animal has an illness that might be helped by the drug. The proposal is in its earliest stages and faces numerous legislative hurdles before it could become law. It’s part of a larger bill that would refine the state’s existing medical marijuana law by clarifying penalties for drivers under the influence and allowing the resale of marijuana dispensaries.

Follow ABC News Health on Twitter for breaking health and medical news.