Stoned Cows Fed With Hemp Make THC-laced Milk

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In the midst of moral panic over the legalization of weed, we may be overlooking a much greater danger from the cannabis plant: stoned cows. Feeding hemp to dairy cows can cause changes in the animals’ behavior and inadvertently produce milk containing cannabinoids, according to new research from research institutes in Germany.

That’s according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Food, adds data to a growing chorus of voices calling for the hemp raw material industry to be put on the brakes. The authors of this study call for more research to show that hemp really is as harmless as it seems.

Hemp, it should be noted, is legal to produce and process. In the US, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp to make fabric, CBD, seed and grain for human or animal consumption. When processors extract CBD oil from hemp, large amounts of plant matter are left behind, prompting growers to consider using it as inexpensive animal feed.

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In the study, researchers fed 10 dairy cows with different concentrations and types of hemp. One group dined on low-cannabinoid hemp, while another was fed a high-cannabinoid diet made from hemp leaves, flowers, and seeds. Whole-plant hemp at a low concentration didn’t lead to noticeable changes, but if cows were fed even small amounts of leaves, flowers, and seeds, the animals would get…well, stoned.

Researchers observed changes such as increased yawning, drooling, runny noses, drowsiness and “pronounced tongue play,” the study said. In fact, some of the cows fed most of the high cannabinoid feed showed unsteady gait and abnormal posture.

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And the animals fed both high and low levels of leaves, flowers and seeds had measurable amounts of both THC and CBD in their milk, which remained above zero for days after they were weaned off the hemp diet.

Sonja Schäche, a spokesperson for Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, told The Daily Beast in an email that the researchers tried to conduct the study as close to a realistic scenario as possible. The THC concentration of the highest levels of hemp fed to the cows was below the legal limit of 0.2 percent, she said.

“No conclusions can be drawn from the study as to whether there is a health risk from the consumption of marketed milk” if it contains trace amounts of CBD or THC, she added.

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The study is unlikely to allay critics’ concerns — and rightly so. The American Veterinary Medical Association earlier this year warned against using hemp in pet food “until studies show it is safe.” Not only are the long-term effects of cannabinoid exposure on animals unclear, laboratory methods to detect it in animal eggs, milk and meat are still being developed.

“To gain approval, scientific evidence must be provided of appropriate limits to protect consumers from unwanted exposure to cannabinoids,” reads a joint open letter signed by 17 animal organizations. “We understand the importance of supporting the hemp industry, but we also believe it’s just too soon to know if hemp is safe for farm and ranch animals, as well as our pets.”

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