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In what sounds like the plot to an adults-only “Shrek” sequel, researchers at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently published their findings on what happens when donkeys get stoned. In this case, the two test subjects were a jack and a jenny (as male and female donkeys are known) who each munched down on “a few grams” of high-quality, legally grown cannabis.

Following this unusual meal, the donkeys began to display symptoms that “sound a lot like what happens when a person takes an edible that’s too strong,” Marijuana Moment opined.

Elevated heart rates, lethargy, and a longer comedown period — the jenny’s symptoms reportedly lasted a staggering 44 hours — were all observed, though thankfully the study also noted that both subjects recovered “uneventfully” within 24 hours of the effects reaching their peak potency.

Notably, this study is the first to ever explore the matter of what happens when a donkey consumes cannabis.

“Marijuana toxicosis is typically seen by companion animal veterinarians,” the study’s authors observed. “However, with increased marijuana availability, there is a greater potential for toxicosis in other species.”

They make an excellent point.

As we trek ever deeper into this new age of legal cannabis, the external ramifications of weed being more widely available are seemingly limitless. From concerns over how legal pot will impact motorists to interest in establishing cannabis appellations in the mold of winemakers, the actual business and practice of cultivating and consuming cannabis products can be seen as but one of many spokes in the greater conversation created by this plant.

Another of these spokes is the undeniable reality that more cannabis in the world means more animals inadvertently eating it. Already, we’ve seen reports of dogs apparently getting lit after consuming the fecal matter of humans who themselves recently ingested cannabis.

Though hardly rising to the level of crisis, a better understanding of just what happens to animals who eat weed can only serve to leave us better prepared to help any creatures or critters riding too high.

animals who eat weed can only serve to leave us better prepared to help any creatures or critters riding too high

In the case of the donkeys, researchers sent plasma samples from the jenny to the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to be screened for cannabinoids using “high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectroscopy (HPLC-MS/MS).” The jack, meanwhile, provided a single serum sample, which was sent to the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University for HPLC-MS/MS analysis.

This technique, the study’s authors conclude, could be of benefit in future efforts to determine the presence of cannabinoids in donkeys and other equine species: “Utilizing a cannabinoid screening assay in collaboration with a veterinary diagnostic laboratory may be useful when an equine practitioner suspects marijuana toxicosis in a patient.”

Helping our furry friends from feeling too stoned is important work, but beyond wanting to ensure the safety and comfort of animals, there also remains the compelling possibility that cannabis may provide some of the medicinal benefits that humans have long enjoyed to other species as well.

Specifically, the potential of CBD as a non-psychoactive therapeutic for animals continues to garner immense attention.

In recent years, these studies have included one from a group of researchers in Texas who examined CBD’s viability as a calming agent and painkiller in horses, another that found “dogs with epilepsy experience considerably fewer seizures when treated with CBD oil,” and a third which showed that CBD oil can increase both comfort and activity for dogs with osteoarthritis.

As with everything in the realm of scientific cannabis advancements, it’s a bit piecemeal but nonetheless promising. But all of this work — from the (ethically-questionable) practice of feeding weed to donkeys to the rapidly expanding body of research we’re accumulating with regard to CBD’s potential role in veterinary medicine — ultimately serves to underscore the reality that that a veritable tidal wave of valuable information on this subject is still yet to crash ashore.

Meanwhile, as of May 2021, Forbes reported that the pet CBD product market was expected to generate $629 million in sales last year, with the projection for 2025 pegged at a whopping $1.1 billion.

With that much money up for grabs, it’s safe to say the concept of cannabis products for animals is not destined to be a mere flash in the pan. We may not be at the point where every animal at the zoo should expect to start celebrating 420 in the near future, but if we’re feeding donkeys pot and treating elephants with CBD, it might be time to prepare for more strange days ahead.