Throwing cannabis to the dogs

Veterinarian Stephen Katz describes the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana as similar to the difference between species of dogs.

New York-based veterinarian Stephen Katz has a totally different clientele than you would see in Boulder, or in most suburbs anywhere.

“I mean, it is raw,” he says. “It is raw and real, and it is certainly not what they taught you in veterinary school.”

For years, Katz was most well known for having the largest pit bull clientele in the country with upwards of 10,000 active pitbull clients at any given time. But now he is most well known for treating their anxiety, itching and symptoms of old age with Therabis, a line of his own hemp-derived cannabinoid pet supplements.

His formula didn’t always have cannabidiol (CBD) in it. Up until two years ago he simply described it as a blend of natural products that provided an effective and safe alternative to prescription drugs. Katz, a vocal critic of the economics of big pharma, didn’t want to force his low-income clients into buying drugs that they couldn’t afford or to deal with the slew of side effects that often accompany brand-name drug use.

He probably wouldn’t have added CBD to the formula were it not for his own run in with the law.

Two years ago, Katz was stopped by the police who found three grams of marijuana in his car. Also a New York State Assemblyman, Katz was put into an awkward position. Rather than sweep the issue under the rug, he decided to leverage his position as an elected official and veterinary doctor to make a statement and become involved with the legal business of medical marijuana.

His first step was to study up on existing research, of which there is very little. But he did find some coming out of Israel and England on Charlotte’s Web, a strain of marijuana that is gaining strong evidence for its efficacy to treat seizures in people with epilepsy. Impressed and inspired by the promise of those early findings, he decided to add CBD to his existing formula, just to see what would happen.

“My god! It really potentiated the action of it,” Katz says. “I was able to use less to get the same effect. The rationale in all medicine is that you want to use the least amount of whatever you are using to create the maximum effect, which is what I was able to accomplish by using the CBD.”

Katz attributes the enhanced efficacy of his formula to the entourage effect, a phrase that was introduced in cannabinoid science in 1998 by S. Ben-Shabat to describe an endogenous cannabinoid molecular regulation route. In layman’s terms, please…

“Basically, the small amount of THC makes the CBD more effective,” Katz explains. “And I believe I am getting that same entourage effect with the CBD, but with the ingredients in my formula, without the use of THC, which is pretty remarkable.”

To confirm this anecdotal evidence, Katz partnered with the University of Pennsylvania where his formulas are undergoing a year-long clinical trial.

For Katz, this is much more than a savvy business move or even a way to help his animal clients. This is a way to do everything that he can to advance research into the medical aspects of cannabis.

“We all know that delta 9 THC is going to make you high,” Katz says. “CBD, on the other hand, is going reduce your inflammation or stop a seizure. There is quite a big difference between giving somebody some weed to smoke or giving some pot to a dog in hopes that it is going to make them better. Marijuana itself has been so little studied by the veterinarian community. So that’s why I did what I did, and that is what my research and development department will continue to do.”

Katz is experimenting with a bunch of different methods for the extraction of cannabinoids, like CBD and the lesser talked about CBN or CBC, all of which have medicinal qualities. He sees himself as a part of the leading edge in science and also as playing a key role in the political effort to reschedule marijuana.

Currently a Schedule 1 drug, in the ranks of heroin, he hopes to reschedule it to a Schedule 2 or 3 drug, classifications that, if nothing else, would make marijuana available for scientific and medical research in universities and allow it to be prescribed by doctors and veterinarians.

Even if Katz’s work is just for the dogs, he is driven by the belief that by helping our companions he is also helping people.

“We don’t treat one without the other,” Katz says. “In my practice, the mission statement on the door says we treat our clients … and their pets. And we really mean that.”

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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