Dear Potheads, Stop Poisoning Your Pets

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Prior to the election last November, our assistant editor Ross Pomeroy reminded voters, before they pulled the lever to legalize marijuana, to consider the negative effects that pot has on animals. Many people did not listen to his advice. A recent article in USA Today reports that incidents of dogs suffering from marijuana toxicosis in Colorado are on the rise.

Dogs won’t eat potted plants or bags of weed, but they will happily eat brownies, butter, and any other culinary delights into which a little bit of the ganja has been added. But unlike most humans, dogs don’t know when to stop and will continue eating until it’s all gone.

Consider the humble pot brownie. The first big problem for your dog is the chocolate, which is itself highly toxic to dogs. If the massive intake of chocolate doesn’t make Fluffy violently ill, then pot’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), certainly will. Just like chocolate, dogs don’t metabolize THC the way humans do, so the outcome isn’t pretty. As Pomeroy wrote previously, symptoms can include “anxiety, hallucinations, severe lethargy, unconsciousness… coma… drooling, vomiting, and loss of bladder control.”

“We see dogs stoned out of their minds for days,” Colorado State University veterinarian Dr. Tim Hackett told USA Today. “The dogs are terrified,” chimed in Denver veterinarian Kevin Fitzgerald.

Dogs aren’t the only innocent bystanders, either. Cats can also be harmed by your wayward desserts, and there is at least one reported case of a ferret going into a coma. And of course, children occasionally get into their parents’ cannabis, as well, with similarly terrifying results.

What should be done about this? It’s far too early to label the issue an “epidemic,” but the dangers of marijuana need to be made explicitly clear to the American public. It is not a harmless drug, no matter what the neighborhood flower child says.

Yet, I am deeply sympathetic to the libertarian argument that people should be able to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t harm anybody else. That’s why I voted to legalize marijuana in my state of Washington, though I do not partake of the wacky tobacky myself. I appreciate my neurons, and I prefer keeping my IQ eight points higher than it would be if I regularly puffed the magic dragon.

But, I get very angry when allegedly responsible weed-loving adults live up to the stereotype of being irresponsible potheads. If you keep marijuana in the house, you have the responsibility to keep it locked up and safe — just like prescription drugs, alcohol, or guns. If you do not, and your pet gets stoned because of it, you should be charged with animal cruelty and lose the right to own pets. If your children get stoned, you should lose custody and go straight to jail.

Maybe then America’s stoners will finally get the message that their newfound freedom comes with the price of greater responsibility.