With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the market for cannabis pet products has rapidly grown. As a result, broad-reaching marketing campaigns highlighting the available products and the claimed benefits have become much more prevalent. In response to the prevalence of these campaigns, the FDA and FTC have had to increase efforts to monitor and eliminate products with improper or misleading labels to protect pet owners. The FDA enforces laws that prohibit marketing and sales of misbranded and adulterated drugs and food, while the FTC focuses on eliminating any misleading or deceptive marketing practices. As part of the effort to curb inappropriately labeled cannabis pet products, the FDA has sent out several warning letters to companies that are producing, labeling and selling these products, often advising them that the identified product is an unapproved new animal drug. Warning letter language often states that the offending product is a:

“new animal drug, as defined by section 201(v) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. 321(v), because it is not generally recognized among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of animal drugs, as safe and effective for use under the conditions prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling. To be legally marketed, a new animal drug must have an approved new animal drug application, conditionally approved new animal drug application, or index listing under sections 512, 571, and 572 of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. 360b, 360ccc, and 360ccc-l.”

Companies that receive warning letters from the FDA must take “prompt” legal action to correct the identified violations, and are subsequently warned that failure to make a corrective change could result in additional legal action. The FTC has not currently sent independent warning letters to companies producing cannabis pet products. However, the FDA and FTC have issued several joint warning letters to cannabis pet product companies who are producing misleading and inappropriately labeled products.

Some states are independently regulating the cannabis and hemp space when it comes to pet products. For example, Florida currently permits pet food and pet treats to contain hemp (manufactured for both traditional and specialty pets). However, the product must not contain more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol. Florida has also made labeling compliance in the hemp and animal product space user-friendly; the state has published a labeling checklist that clearly outlines the requirements. Now, businesses know what is required of them, and consumers know what they should be looking for.

What are the Current Risks?

Given the enormous amount of cannabis pet products in the marketplace, it can be hard to decide which one to select, or if you should select one at all, even if the labels seem to include a lot of information. Consulting with your veterinarian is advised, though they may be uncomfortable providing such advice, based on federal and/or state restrictions.

Other Concerns

There have been reports that pets that have consumed cannabis products intended for human consumption have become sick. Reported clinical signs include vomiting, dizziness, digestive complications, low blood pressure and dry mouth. Those risks become increasingly serious when pets consume cannabis products that contain dangerous additives (for pets) such as chocolate or raisins.

It is best practice to always research and examine any pet products before purchasing, especially when they contain cannabis. There are several national advocacy associations that also provide guidance and policy updates on the latest standards for animal feed. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) are two sources that can be referenced to help guide decisions about pet products.

To read about the regulation of hemp, hemp derivatives and CBD in animal products, click here.