Pets and Weed: A Safety Primer

If you didn’t know already, when you smoke weed, you are introducing compounds into your bloodstream. These compounds largely travel through your blood to interact with your endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS), which has many functions but generally strives to maintain internal balance. When THC binds to ECS receptors, it causes imbalance in various systems, which makes you feel high.

The ECS was only discovered through research on marijuana, which is why its name includes “cannabinoid,” the name for those compounds unique to cannabis that cause various effects. Research on the ECS only began in the 1990s, which means there is plenty we don’t know about how the ECS functions, both under the influence of marijuana and as it normally does in a healthy, sober adult.

However, something we do know about the ECS is that it is old — really old. Researchers have found the ECS in every animal studied, from complex vertebrates like mammals, birds and reptiles to invertebrates like leeches, mussels and nematodes. That means your pets have a system that can go haywire when subjected to cannabis — and that means you need to take extra special care to keep your pets safe if you keep weed in the house.

Using Weed Around Pets

Just as you can get secondhand high from someone else smoking in your vicinity, your pets can inhale marijuana smoke and as a result experience marijuana’s effects. What’s more, pets can relatively easily get into cannabis edibles left out on counters, especially while you are tripping and paying less attention to the edible and your pets’ behavior.

Unfortunately, while you might be able to recognize and rationalize the feeling of being high even when that feeling is unintended, your pets cannot. The relaxation, euphoria, visual effects and more tend to be profoundly frightening to a small animal that has never experienced before. Worse, because pets’ bodies tend to be much smaller than humans’, they are much more likely to experience an overdose, which can cause hallucinations, panic and high blood pressure. There are documented cases of pets dying from THC overdose — though only after accidentally consuming large amounts of medical-grade marijuana, which in states like Maryland can have absurdly high THC content.

If you are going to use weed around your pets, you need to do so intelligently. When planning to inhale, you should keep pets in a different room or smoke in a well-ventilated area to reduce the likelihood of a secondhand high. When you take edibles, you should take only the portion you desire and put the rest away in secure storage. This should reduce your pet’s exposure to the drug and make it much more difficult for them to experience marijuana’s effects.


Photo Credit: Sapphire Point

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Storing Weed Around Pets

If you don’t want your pet to eat your dinner, you usually don’t store your food in places where your pet has easy access, like the counter or floor. The same should go for your weed: You need to choose storage spaces that your pet cannot reach and make it as difficult as possible for them to accidentally ingest your THC-filled goodies.

For the most part, this means keeping your stash in a cabinet or drawer, ideally one far from the ground. However, you might also opt to keep your weed in a locked box or glass jar, which pets are unlikely to take much interest in. You should do your best to disassociate fun from the location where you store your weed, which will cut down on your pet’s curiosity regarding the secure space — which means never giving your pets treats while you are high or preparing to get high.

Growing Weed Around Pets

Whether or not home cultivation of cannabis is legal in your state, you should be careful with how you grow your weed garden if you have pets. Admittedly, raw cannabis isn’t going to get you or your pets high because cannabinoids require heat to transform them into compounds usable by the ECS. Plus, cannabis crops tend to emit smells that discourage most pets from chowing down on them. Still, pets can wreak havoc on any garden, expelling waste, digging, trampling, and the like, so you might take pains to protect your valuable cannabis plants. Erecting a garden fence around your outdoor crop or sequestering your indoor plants in a pet-free zone are both valid options.

Whether you have a half-pound chihuahua or a car-sized mastiff — whether you have a cat or a lizard or a hamster — you can poison your pet with marijuana if you aren’t careful. Fortunately, by taking a few simple precautions, you can keep your pets and your pot safe.

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