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Driving, Growing And Pets: Your Answers To Questions About Cannabis

We’re now in the third week of legal cannabis sales in Illinois. Here are some answers to questions sent into our site Ask The Newsroom.com during the week of January 13, 2020. WILL News Director Reginald Hardwick looked for answers for some of the questions.

What legal provisions are there for controlling driving high? I have heard there is no test like the one that determines blood alcohol level. – Karen

ANSWER: We checked the Illinois State Police Facebook page, they stress quote you can and will be arrested if you drive high. They also say a person may not use or possess cannabis in a vehicle, unless it is secured in a sealed, odor-proof, child resistant container and kept inaccessible to the driver. So if you’re involved in another traffic incident and its discovered that the cannabis is not in that sealed container, you could be cited for that as well. Karen is partially correct, there’s no breathalyzer test for cannabis like there is for drivers impaired by alcohol. However, the Illinois State Police is researching how to test saliva  for  THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Also, the Illinois State Police is leading a DUI Cannabis Task Force, which was formed last June. They are expected to recommend improvements on enforcement of driving under the influence of marijuana to Governor JB Pritzker and the General Assembly by July. Another state looking at saliva tests is Michigan, where recreational marijuana became legal last year. Their State Police are testing a Q-tip like swab that can be used in the mouth. The swab is then entered into a handheld device to indicate within 5 minutes if a person is positive or negative for cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates and other drugs. But according to MLive, defense attorneys say the tests have issues because while some of the swabs turned up positive for THC, a blood test later did not have the same results. So right now, the saliva test is still in the pilot program stage.

A friend who also holds a medical cannabis card, as I do, will be setting up a hydroponic-growing room to grow the five cannabis plants she is allowed. Because she owns space large enough, she has asked me if I want to grow my five allotted plants there. Can I do that legally on her property if I rent space from her? – Kay

ANSWER: Here’s what we know about what the law says.: “Illinois home grow of cannabis is available to medical cannabis patients in their primary residence – with a limit of five (5) cannabis plants over five (5) inches tall – per household & not per person.” We tried calling around to lawyers who work with cannabis cases and didn’t get an answer.

What happens if your pet accidentally swallows your pot?

ANSWER: For the answer to this, we headed over the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. We talked with Dr. Caroline Tonozzi, clinical assistant professor in the college. Her specialty is small animal emergency and critical care. She told me in 17 years that’s she’s treated pets exposed to cannabis. In dogs, most of the problems happen when they accidentally eat an entire plate of edibles like cookies or brownies or consume butter or oils with cannabis.

There’s two problems with that: because its baked into the food, its unclear how high the THC levels are in the food, so they don’t know how much has been ingested. Secondly, the cannabis may be in a food like a brownie, made out of chocolate which is toxic to dogs.

Here’s what Dr. Tonozzi said to look for if you think your dog or cat has accidentally ingested marijuana:

“The main thing is that they start dribbling urine or become urinary incontinent. They sway. We call that Ataxia. They might be less awake or they kind of act like they’re getting tired. They might get dilated pupils, be reluctant to stand up and walk. In more severe cases, it might lower their heart rate and cause them to go into a coma. Cats it might be a little different. They act like they’re hallucinating – acting one way then sitting there and all of the sudden start trying to grab at the air, jumping off and on things.”

Dr. Tonozzi recommends calling the poison control hotline or seeing a vet. There are some decontamination measures that a vet can do.

Like humans, some people say CBD oil from cannabis can help improve health in pets. Did she say anything about that?

ANSWER: We asked Dr. Tonozzi about that. She said there’s just not enough research and studies out there. So she does not recommend it although other vets might.

Picture of Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick is the News & Public Affairs Director for the Illinois Newsroom. He started at WILL in October of 2019 after serving as News Director for WKAR in East Lansing, Michigan. Previously, he was a news producer and manager at the NBC station in Dallas, where he won 7 Emmy awards. Born in Vietnam, Reginald is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado. Email: rh14@illinois.edu Twitter: @RNewsWILL

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