Medical marijuana bill deserves tough but fair examination by Senate

Published 5:32 pm Monday, February 24, 2020


The Advocate-Messenger

Kentucky’s House Bill 136 would legalize medical marijuana in the commonwealth. It would make the Bluegrass State the 34th in the nation to legalize use of the drug to treat medical conditions.

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Kentucky would hardly be breaking new ground, since two-thirds of states have already been there and done that. That is a good thing, because legislators can look to what has happened with medical marijuana elsewhere to answer a lot of the questions they may have.

But not all questions have been answered about the relatively new cannabis trend, and there are also new questions emerging as marijuana becomes legal in more ways and in more places around the nation.

One strange example: Dogs’ health is increasingly being put at risk as marijuana use spreads. The psychoactive chemical in marijuana, THC, “can sedate a dog so fully that it will inhale its own vomit, which can be lethal,” according to reporting from National Public Radio.

At less fatal levels, NPR reported that THC can cause dogs to exhibit the following symptoms:

  • “wobbly movements, like a person who is drunk;”
  • “dribbling urine;”
  • “a dazed or glazed look in the dog’s eyes;”
  • low temperature; and 
  • nervousness.

Dogs might ingest marijuana if they find a marijuana joint or an “edible” — food made with marijuana. They can also potentially get THC in their systems if they consume human feces from someone who ingested marijuana, according to NPR.

Kentucky’s HB 136 wouldn’t allow for the smoking of marijuana, so marijuana joints would in theory be no more of a risk for dogs than they are today. But there’s no doubt the quantities of marijuana in Kentucky would go up with legalization, and the number of instances where marijuana is left somewhere accessible to a canine companion would certainly rise at the same time.

This isn’t to say marijuana shouldn’t be legalized because of dogs — the threat isn’t all that big in context, and dogs aren’t dying in any significant numbers even in states where marijuana is legal. But it does show how there can be unintended consequences to legal changes — consequences that legislators should take into consideration as they make new laws. Even if that consideration doesn’t change the ultimate outcome much, it does at least ensure that due diligence was done.

HB 136 passed the House on Feb. 20; as it is considered by a far more skeptical Senate, senators should not simply oppose or support the idea based on their preconceived notions. They should try to understand the issue well before forming an opinion,

Senators should seek the answers available to them from the states where marijuana is already legal; they should also seek the questions those states still have, so they know where the uncertainties lie. Then, they can make an informed decision that gives the commonwealth the best chance of success.