When the state of Colorado made “medical” marijuana legal in 2000, local veterinarians noticed a curious side-effect. Canines rushed headlong into this burgeoning drug scene, consuming wild plants as well as their owners’ prescription stashes at alarming rates. Indeed, doctors recorded a 30-fold increase in the number of emergency room admissions due to dogs having “bad trips” while high on pot.
Much like rebellious teenagers, today’s pets seem to crave the dangerous mental states caused by narcotics. After a dose of reefer, they grow anxious and paranoid, dehydrated and absurd. They rush about manically, barking at non-existent demons and weeping for their masters. For those who doubt the scope of this crisis, a quick search on Google reveals countless photos of dogs from all backgrounds and all shapes and sizes lost in a haze of dope. No breed is immune from this epidemic. Yet despite all the pain and terror, our furry friends are returning again and again for more of the grungy weed. Clearly, addiction has reached a critical juncture. How long until we read newspaper headlines about pitbulls driven to violence due to ganja withdrawal?
The strangest element of this thriving canine cannabis scene is that it’s perfectly legal. Currently, American law does not penalize a pet for possessing, consuming or distributing marijuana. Ideally, the drug should be confiscated by law enforcement when discovered, although cases of this ever happening are extremely rare. According to federal statutes, dogs are not obligated to obey human marijuana prohibitions in any way, shape or form. There are no regulations on the books that address the issue of dogs under the influence either. Hypothetically, a Chihuahua could possess a truckload of reefer and even smoke that much without suffering any legal consequences whatsoever. The most a police officer could do in such a situation is pat the little guy on his head and send him on his merry way.
If the law gave such an exception to an ethnic minority, people would be outraged. Why do we give dogs a free pass? Imagine if drug cartels realized the potential of dogs as drug mules, traversing the country with bales of reefer and immune from prosecution! Or even worse, canines as pot dealers, working the sidewalks outside our high schools, putting children everywhere at risk…
With the marijuana epidemic causing serious damage to the pet population, it’s clear that we need a better solution. Man’s best friend needs our help and Congress needs to stop this emergency from getting worse. Can our laws be extended to include pets? A blanket expansion of legal precedent would likely require bold action on the part of the Supreme Court. For now, we need only focus on the immediate issue. Our legislators have it within their power to expand the rubric of existing drug laws. We need not alter the mandate of the DEA when we already have a law enforcement department that works in animal control at our disposal. Veterinary facilities can be enlarged to include treatment and rehabilitation for those pets with uncontrollable vices. The mission of our punitive institutions can also be adapted to face the changing reality on the streets.
But none of this will happen until we demand that Congress act. With the November elections fast approaching, now is the time to contact your representatives and senators. Ask them to enact a comprehensive solution to stop the pet pot pandemic. Remind them of the incredible sacrifice of our canines in uniform, from the military, to the police and fire departments to the unheralded service dogs helping the disabled. They have seen us through so much tragedy, isn’t it time we return the favor?