Derek Connor
Jun 25 2019 . 5 min read

Legalease June 2019

Legalease June 2019

A look at federal and state laws regulating CBD pet products

A look at federal and state laws regulating CBD pet products

by Derek J. Connor, Esq. & Natice Locke

Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) are gaining wider acceptance and are growing in popularity across the country. CBD is being offered in a wide range of products such as cosmetics, ointments, pharmaceuticals, food, and beverages. Likewise, CBD enthusiasts rejoiced when the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp. As evidence for the health benefits associated with CBD becomes more accepted, people are looking for ways to implement CBD in their lives.

The CBD market has even caught the attention of pet owners, with many looking for ways to provide it for their animals. Although there are several examples of CBD-infused pet products available on the market, the legalities associated with CBD pet products remain challenging.

President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law at the end of 2018 which legalized the production and sale of hemp. Overall, the 2018 Farm Bill is a win for cannabis advocates. The 2018 Farm Bill allows for the production and distribution of hemp that contains no more than 0.3 percent THC.1 

Although hemp and marijuana belong to the Cannabis family, there are notable distinctions between the two. Generally, there are physical differences between plants used for industrial hemp and those used for marijuana production, but their uses are what primarily set them apart.2 Marijuana contains large amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component responsible for producing the “high” marijuana is known for.3 Marijuana is usually smoked, inhaled, or ingested.4 Pet supplements do not typically contain THC.5 Hemp, on the other hand, is produced for more industrial purposes.6 Hemp is capable of producing paper, clothing, building materials, biofuel, and food products.7 Additionally, hemp generally contains higher amounts of CBD and low amounts of THC.8 However, significant restrictions are

imposed and hemp remains heavily regulated by federal and state governments.9  

Each state is responsible for regulating the sale of pet food. In other words, the state of Nevada must license all manufacturers, distributors, and guarantors involved in the sale of pet food after an application process.10 As of now, the distribution and sale of pet food that contains cannabis is a violation of federal and state law.11 The Nevada Department of Agriculture is the state agency responsible for commercial feed licensing.12 Commercial pet food falls under this category.13 Both the Nevada Department of Agriculture and the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) prohibit the use of cannabis in pet food and animal health products.14

The Nevada Department of Agriculture defers to the policies set forth by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).15 AAFCO is an association of volunteer local, state, and federal agencies that regulates the sale and distribution of animal feed and health products.16 AAFCO proposes model regulations that individual states may adopt and follow.17 

Lawful pet food ingredients must first receive approval.18 Each ingredient in animal feed must be the subject of a food additive petition or generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for the intended species.19 The CVM takes guidance from state regulators and the AAFCO to determine which ingredients are permissible in animal feed.20 For now, the AAFCO does not classify hemp as GRAS, nor is there an approved petition for hemp to be added in pet food.21 More simply, the AAFCO does not allow hemp in pet food, so the FDA and state of Nevada do not either.

On the contrary, pet owners may notice that many CBD pet products are already on the market. This seems to contradict the hemp prohibition imposed by the federal and state government. However, a regulation loophole seemingly allows CBD in pet products that are classified as a “pet supplement.”22 That is because diet supplements are regulated for humans, but not for pets.23 Additionally, diet supplements are not considered drugs.24 The result is a gray area that allows for unregulated pet food products on the market, most commonly in the form of pet supplements or treats.25 

With the cannabis market vastly expanding, consumers now have more options than ever for both themselves and their pets. As of now, the FDA has still not approved any food items or supplements that contain CBD for human consumption. And as with many other aspects of the cannabis regulation, the pet food industry still has a lot of catching up to do. The sale of pet food that contains CBD remains illegal for now. However, pet owners may elect to provide their animals with alternative supplements and food products that contain CBD.


    1John Hudak, The Farm Bill, Hemp Legalization and the Status of CBD: An Explainer, BROOKINGS (Dec. 14, 2018),

 2Aaron Caden, Hemp vs Marijuana: The Difference Explained, CBD ORIGIN (SEPT. 10, 2018),


 5Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, CBD Pet Products on the Rise, Regulatory Status is Murky, PETFOOD INDUSTRY.COM (July 16, 2018).

 6Caden, supra note 2.


 8Cannabis Compliance Firm, The Cannabis Plant: The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana (Apr. 25, 2018),

 9Hudak, supra note 1.

 10Nev. Dept. of Agriculture, Commercial Feed Licensing and Reporting, (last visited May 3, 2019).


 15See Nev. Dept. of Agriculture, Commercial Feed Licensing and Reporting, (last visited May 3, 2019).

 16AAFCO: Association of American Feed Control Officials, Welcome to AAFCO, (last visited Apr. 18, 2019).


 18See, U.S. Food & Drug Admin. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Questions and Answers, (last visited May 3, 2019).

 19U.S. Food & Drug Admin. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Questions and Answers, (last visited May 3, 2019).


 22Phillips-Donaldson, supra note 5.