Hey, I don't know if you've covered this before but are there any details on what specifically in marijuana that's harmful for reptiles/what it does? Even without the smoke, just the substances. I've... Got a guy talking about feeding cannabis plants to iguanas
Yeah, the substance itself is actually quite toxic! There’s been a few studies done on marijuana toxicity, but most of them refer to the smoke. There’s a few other citations, but the best comprehensive thing I know of is from this vet textbook called Reptile Medicine and Surgery. The second edition’s fairly recent (within the past decade) and everything that’s come out after typically refers to this book and the stuff cited within. (Side note: This book is an excellent resource and honestly quite worth signing up for the free Scribd trial just to download and have on hand. For most reptile owners, the detailed vet procedure stuff won’t be as useful, but the pictures and stuff about common diseases and how they present is invaluable.)
Here’s what the book’s got to say about marijuana toxicity and what it does to reptiles:
Marijuana continues to be by far the most used illicit drug in the United States. Cannabis sativa has been used for centuries for its hemp fiber, as rope, and for its psychoactive resins. Totally or partially herbivorous captive reptiles may encounter growing marijuana plants or ingest dried stems,
leaves, and flowers.
The main active ingredient of marijuana is tetrahydrocannibinol
(THC). The highest concentration of this psychoactive
constituent is found in the leaves and the flowering tops of
plants. Hashish is the dried resin of flower tops. The precise
mechanism of action of THC is unknown, but the psychoactive
effects of this drug are thought to stem from a number of sites
within the CNS, including cholinergic dopaminergic, serotonergic,
noradrenergic, and GABA receptors. Ingested marijuana
shows effects much more slowly than the results of the inhaled
smoke; however, the effects of ingested THC last much longer.
Clinical signs after ingestion of marijuana include mydriasis,
weakness, ataxia, bradycardia, hypothermia, and stupor.
The extent of clinical signs after marijuana ingestion is almost
totally dose related.
Treatment for marijuana ingestion is primarily supportive
and symptomatic. Marijuana toxications are rarely fatal
because of the wide margin of safety of THC. Activated charcoal
administration is recommended to decrease enterohepatic
recirculation. Despite its relative safety margin, recovery after
ingestion may be prolonged and take up to 3 to 4 days. Fluids
and monitoring of body temperature may be beneficial.
We have seen two reptiles ingest fairly large amounts of
marijuana. A 10-pound Sulcata Tortoise showed no effects
after eating four marijuana cigarettes. However, a 6-pound
male Green Iguana was stuporous after eating into a “baggie”
of marijuana and needed support. Both animals recovered
Undoubtedly other “under-the-counter” drugs have been
blundered across by reptiles. Various “over-the-counter”
drugs kept on nightstands, kitchen counters, or bathroom
shelves may be encountered by captive reptiles given free
range in the house. For their own safety, captive animals
should be confined and all medications kept in their original
containers in child-proof and animal-proof cabinets.
So yes, it’s toxic. Do the animals usually die from eating it? Well, no, because the plant itself is relatively safe. Is it a good idea? Absolutely not, why would you put your animal through that??