Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Medical cannabis, for dads and dogs alike

Our erudite cannabis advice columnist provides answers about medical pot for man and man's best friend

Dear Herb: Will some stores sell cannabis without the THC? I am interested in it for my 88-year-old father with dementia, for his Parkinson's.

I don't want to contribute to his dementia by increasing the possibility of a high or making him confused. —Don't Want to Get Dad High

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

Dear Don't Want to Get Dad High: You didn't explicitly mention this your question, but I'm assuming you're interested in finding a type of cannabis that is not just low in THC, but also high in cannabidiol, or CBD (you can read more about the differences between the two chemical compounds in The Leaf's explainer here).

I can't make any medical or scientific claims about whether cannabis is effective in treating the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, but I can tell you that there's a growing body of research on the subject. I'd strongly advise that you consult your father's physician before taking this step, especially since he has dementia.

With those disclaimers out of the way, there are already Canadian medical cannabis companies producing and selling strains with high CBD content and relatively little THC.

Licensed producer MedReleaf, for example, sells a strain called Avidekel that might fit the bill — it's listed as having THC content of 0.3 to 0.6 per cent (virtually nothing) and CBD content of 11 to 14 per cent. Lots of other producers sell their own high-CBD strains, not to mention cannabis oils with a high ratio of CBD to THC. (For an older person like your father, oils might be easier to administer.)

If you're looking for products like that for your father, I'd advise you contact a medical cannabis referral clinic in your area and try to arrange an appointment. A reputable clinic will offer a consultation with a physician who can help you assess your father's situation, and — if it makes medical sense — sign him up with a licensed producer that carries the right kinds of products. (FYI: if a business that calls itself a clinic is selling cannabis on-site, it's not operating legally.)

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In terms of whether THC-free cannabis will be sold in retail stores after legalization, it's possible but relatively unlikely in my opinion.

The same licensed producers who are currently growing legal cannabis for registered medical users will be supplying the legal, recreational market after legalization, so there's nothing that would keep them from selling high-CBD, low-THC products to recreational users through legal stores.

But those recreational users are, generally speaking, looking to get high — and marijuana with all the THC content bred out won't achieve that effect. For that reason alone, I'm guessing that selling high-CBD, low-THC products won't be a priority for recreational retailers after legalization.

That said, you'll still be able to find those products in the legal medical system, just as you can right now. Let me know if you manage to work something out for your dad!


Dear Herb: My best friend Gertie, who happens to be a Golden Retriever, is getting on in age and is struggling with some arthritis in her hips. I have heard that people are making marijuana dog meds for lots of different things. 

I want to try it but it makes me nervous to think about giving her weed because she can't tell me if it helps or freaks her out.

Do dogs get high, same as us? How do they know how to dose it for dogs? — Gertie's Human, Edmonton

Dear Gertie's Human: I'm sorry to hear about Gertie's arthritis, and I have no doubt she's a good girl who deserves the best medical care and a scratch behind the ears.

Definitely don't just "give her weed." Yes, dogs can get high, and Gertie probably doesn't want that.

As you mentioned, there are a growing number of marijuana-based pet medications these days, especially in the U.S. I called up Dr. Ian Sandler, a veterinarian at Rosedale Animal Hospital in Toronto, to ask what's available here in Canada.

In short, Dr. Sandler told me there aren't yet any marijuana-based veterinary drugs that have been approved for prescription by Health Canada.

"There are a number of hemp products, but those fall under the 0.3 per cent (legal limit) on the THC side," he said. "So in terms of specific products that would, if you will, rival some of the medications that are available (for arthritis) — some of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, some of the other glucosamine-type products — there really isn't anything specifically available at this time that I know of."

Some of government-approved, non-psychoactive veterinary health products derived from hemp might be helpful for an arthritic dog, he said. Future research, he said, holds plenty of promise for treating animals suffering from conditions like arthritis.

"I am absolutely open to it, and I think most veterinarians are," said Dr. Sandler.

But although there are plenty of anecdotal claims about the potential benefits of cannabis treatments for pets, he added, "the reality is that veterinarians really should be involved with that."

"I think it's really important that there's an understanding of, what is this drug going to do, how may it interact with that pet, with underlying disease that it may have, or with other medications that it may or may not be on? It's very much so a 'buyer beware' situation if clients want to start self-medicating."

Although medical cannabis is becoming more acceptable in society in general, Dr. Sandler cautioned specifically against the animal use of cannabis products meant for humans.

"It's not so much whether they're safe or not. The issue is, you have animals getting into product that is now much purer than it potentially ever was before, in concentrated doses, and so you are going to see adverse effects."

Unapproved medical cannabis products for pets are still available in Canadian dispensaries, both in stores and online. If you're really set on trying these products on your dog, Dr. Sandler urged a second thought.

"If they're dead-set (on) using it... I think it's really important that there's an understanding of, what is this drug going to do, how may it interact with that pet, with underlying disease that it may have, or with other medications that it may or may not be on? It's very much so a 'buyer beware' situation if clients want to start self-medicating," he said.

That said, Dr. Sandler said a hemp-based dog treat with little to no THC is unlikely to be a problem.

"Relatively speaking, I would say use a low-risk product first, because there's a number of hemp products on the market available (already)," he said. "But in terms of using anything stronger, I would be somewhat cautious at this point. I'm hoping that with some legislative change around how vets will be able to start scripting these products, it will become more transparent for us to become involved with that discussion."

Good luck with Gertie, and give her a (non-cannabis) treat from me!


Got a question about cannabis? Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.  Email dearherb@theleafnews.com or to submit anonymously, fill out this form:    


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