For as long as we’ve kept cannabis in our homes, we’ve risked the chance that a person or pet might come across our stash and accidentally consume something. The increasing availability and acceptance of pot also means that formally rare situations—like a dog finding and eating the discarded remains of a joint while out on a walk in the park—are becoming more commonplace.
While taking preventative measures to ensure your cannabis doesn’t fall into the wrong hands (or paws) may seem painfully obvious to more seasoned consumers, California is less than two years into active adult use sales. That means that a lot of people are only just now coming into contact with cannabis for the first time.
The number of first-time cannabis users grew by 140 percent in 2018 according to an annual survey published by the cannabis delivery company Eaze. The survey used data from over 450,000 customers and approximately 4,000 survey respondents.
Both more mature consumers who last kept their pot in a cigar box and first-time buyers with no idea about proper storage options should be aware that there are a wide variety of stash boxes and other products designed with cannabis containment in mind. Some are practical, while others are decadent or cleverly disguised as furniture items. Even in homes with proper measures in place, there’s still always a chance that a brownie, joint butt, or some flower crumbs gets left out.
Thankfully, it isn’t possible for a human to fatally overdose from THC. There are, however, rare reports of dogs who died from cannabis-induced conditions.
Clearly concern for pets has increased among owners, too. In a statement provided to NBC News in 2018, the American Veterinarian Medical Association noted that calls related to accidental cannabis ingestion made to their Veterinary Services Poison Helpline had spiked 448 percent over the past six years.
Without any available data to suggest a correlation between an increase in calls and an increase in pets actually consuming cannabis, it’s dubious to suggest this surge is indicative of a pot-sick pooch epidemic. To the contrary, it most likely indicates that owners are simply now on heightened alert for signs that their pets may have unknowingly eaten cannabis in some form.
In a statement provided to SF Weekly, SF SPCA veterinarian Dr. Roger Helmers estimates that he sees a few patients with cannabis-related complaints a month.
“In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in marijuana cases,” he observes, “but there wasn’t a significant spike after marijuana was legalized.”
The same appears to be true when it comes to humans and local cannabis-related visits to the emergency room in the wake of adult use sales.
“I haven’t heard of any significant changes,” Brent Andrew, chief communications officer for the San Francisco Department of Health, said in an email to SF Weekly.
Even if informal observation fails to suggest that San Francisco’s legalized cannabis industry has increased the rate of accidental ingestion for humans or pets, it’s still bound to happen from time to time. Unfortunately, when it does, the remedies people often turn to in hopes of lessening the effect are frequently as laughable as your relative’s miracle hiccup cures.
The first thing to know is that panic is the enemy. Whether you’re the one seeking information or just trying to help a friend or family member, it’s imperative to remember that the calmer everyone remains, the better everything will be. The good news is that this unfortunate experience has a firm expiration date — all you have to do is wait for it to arrive.
Other valid tips include staying hydrated and eating a snack (nothing massive), if possible. Some folks also swear by chewing or smelling black peppercorns. Beyond that, all you can really do is find somewhere quiet and calming and try to get distracted. Consider it a prescription-strength dose of Netflix. Should the desire to visit the emergency room persist, do whatever feels necessary to protect the health of the person in crisis but be advised that the medical professionals you encounter will almost assuredly be offering treatment for an anxiety attack.
When it comes to pets, things are a bit more serious.
According to Dr. Helmers, potential signs of pot intoxication in pets includes prolonged depression, vomiting, incoordination, sleepiness or excitation, hypersalivaton, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, urinary incontinence, and seizure.
“If your pet shows signs of marijuana ingestion,” Helmers warns, “it is important to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. Normally animals do well with supportive care, but if the animal has ingested a large amount of marijuana it can be dangerous. In extremely rare cases, ingesting marijuana can lead to coma or death.”
If you have a pot emergency with your pet, the SF SPCA’s Pacific Heights Campus is open 24/7/365 for emergencies at 2343 Fillmore Street: 415-554-3030.
If you are concerned about someone who may have accidentally consumed (or overconsumed) cannabis, you can always seek free advice by calling the American Association of Poison Control Centers: (800) 222-1222.