Harmless Hemp and Passive Toxicity – Not New, but a Growing Concern.

Not unsurprisingly, the Cannabis Industry creates many and varied ‘contaminants’ to the environment, community and humanity itself, but it also creates its very own irony in the contaminant context.

As far back as 2015, concerns were being raised about cannabis contaminants, but not in perhaps the way we view it now.

In Southern Oregon (USA) marijuana growers wanted to ban industrial hemp production from the region out of fear that hemp may pollinate their cannabis crops and render them worthless!

“Allowing industrial hemp in an area known for churning out high-grade marijuana could undermine the industry”, growers argue…"It basically makes the medicine worthless,"

Hmmm, isn’t Cannabidiol (CBD) and other Cannabinoids that are supposed to be the ‘medicine’, not really Delta 9 THC? CBD is seemingly not impacted by Hemp cross-pollination, only the ‘recreational quality’ product, so why the hysteria? Ah, the cannabis logic is confusing.

The zeal for the addiction for profit sector of the Marijuana market, engendered a paranoia that cross pollination with the all but zero THC content hemp, will weaken and thus render uncommercial their ‘recreational’ product, which they referred to as ‘medicine’.

However, no concerns were being raised back then that the reverse may be true.

In a paper published as far back as August 2000 research-based warnings were already being issued about this blurring of the lines with Hemp and other Cannabis strains.  The following excerpt from Cannabis, Hemp, THC in the Food-Cosmetic Supply gives some insight,

Another unknown is hemp as forage for animals.  According to Stan Blade, a director of crop diversification for Alberta Agriculture, a program that will test hemp over the next year as feed for livestock is being considered in Canada.  Forage hemp will be tested on cattle against a more traditional mixture of oats and barley. 

Buffalo, the common dairy animal of Pakistan, are allowed to graze on Cannabis sativa (hemp), which, after absorption, is metabolized into a number of psychoactive agents.  These agents are ultimately excreted through the urine and milk, making the milk, used by the people of the region, subject to contamination.  Depending on the amount of milk ingested and the degree of contamination, the milk could result in a low to moderate level of chronic exposure to THC and other metabolites, especially among the children raised on this milk.  Analysis from the urine obtained from children who were being raised on the milk from these animals, indicated that 29% of them had low levels of THC-COOH (THC-carboxylixc acid, which is a major metabolite for THC) in their urine.  This study indicates that the passive consumption of marijuana through milk products is a serious problem in this region where wild marijuana grows unrestricted, and that children are likely to be exposed more than adults.” 

The legal requirement for 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (9-THC) content of HEMP is supposed to be 0.3 percent or less, yet from both anecdotal evidence and an ever-decreasing quality control management, one will find it difficult to ensure even basic health and safety issues are monitored, let alone acted upon.

One such issue and now after thought, is that the hemp industry has a lot of waste bi-product and finding ways to deal with it, apart from burning it (and all the attending concerns around that) is determining its suitability as fodder.

In 2013 a Washington State pig farmer thought he would experiment with his hobby hogs and see if Pot waste would change the flavour of his pork products. Thinking as many in the industry do now, that the waste from cannabis grows must be useful, he tried the experiment. Anecdotally, it was a ‘success’, his retailers declaring it better tasting.

However, John P. McNamara, a professor at Washington State University's Department of Animal Sciences, did not find the experiment amusing, nor should he.

"Of all the crazy things I've seen in my 37-plus years, this is the dumbest things I've ever seen in my life," McNamara said in order to introduce a drug or medicine to feed, that's being given to animals that make part of the food supply, the federal government must sign off on it after extensive review. He adds that research has shown that cannabis ingested can be transferhred onto tissues.

What of the pigs? Well, according to the producer, no real difference as ‘pigs just eat and sleep anyway’, though the manager noticed one of the more salty sows was calmer after feeding…Hmmm? Again, all anecdote, no data – yet that seems to be a key driver for policy making around this increasingly complex and far from benign product.

In a pod cast by  Aaron Moskowitz, Hemp advocate Hunter Buffington was interviewed on this complex Hemp issue.

The interview revealed some of those complexities and the current attempts to  

(if not overcome) negate them.  The interview confirmed the real need to ensure not only any feed potential of this substantial and growing bio-waste, but also determine any contamination of it, or in it. The imperative of ensuring that what is ‘fed into’ the human food chain is safe should not be understated, but it may well be if pro-cannabis advocates are in-charge of the scrutiny process. Any potential toxicity acquired by the growing environment, (i.e. soils, horticultural practices and/or pesticides) or from the plants own innate compound toxicities, need to be understood and guarded against.

Cannabis Waste Feature EcoWaste1

Alongside these stringent safety protocols, clinical feed trials must also be conducted of the by-products being offered as fodder. Each product must be tested against each of the animal breeds it is going to be fed to, ensuring no further harms are done to the animal being fed, or to those further up the food chain.

Kansas State University are undertaking some studies to that end, with the following outcomes reported in part in the following,


While there is interest in the use of hemp for cattle feeds, there are questions about whether the feed can be used safely because of concerns about tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, intoxication and the presence of other bioactive cannabinoids. Kleinhenz noticed that most research was focused on humans, mice and swine, but not on cattle.

"This is surprising because cattle can readily utilize industrial hemp byproducts as they can digest cellulose plant materials in their rumens," Kleinhenz said.

"We observed that the acidic cannabinoids, such as CBDA and THCA, are more readily absorbed from the rumen than other non-acid cannabinoid forms, such as CBD and CBG," Kleinhenz said. "Now that we have found that some cannabinoids are readily absorbed from the rumen, the next steps are to study the tissue and milk residue udepletion profiles of these compounds after animal feeding experiments. The effects of cannabinoids on cattle are also unknown."  
KSU News & Communication Services

Whilst Kansas State University were conducting their review another long promised study on the use of Hemp crop residue (an environmental concern in its own right) revealed what had been suspected 20 years earlier.  

Published in Nature – Scientific Reports Plasma concentrations of eleven cannabinoids in cattle following oral administration of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) (nih.gov)  uncovered the following,

From the "Discussion" section,

  • Moreover, the impact of the rumen on the fate of oral cannabinoids requires further investigation. Rumen microbes could potentially degrade or metabolize cannabinoids causing alterations in the cannabinoids available for absorption. Merrick et al., reported the in vitro conversion of cannabidiol (CBD) to 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (9-THC) in simulated gastric fluid. Although these findings were not supported in vivo; there is still potential for rumen microbes to play a significant role in the conversion of fatty-acids through biohydrogenation.
  • The results of the finding of this study have implications for IH (Industrial Hemp) as an agriculture commodity. In the short-term, these findings can be used to develop strategies for cattle accidently exposed to IH and hemp by-products, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has explicitly stated cannabinoids are considered adulterants in food production species. However, cattle and other ruminants are ideally suited to utilize IH and the byproducts of cannabinoid production from IH as a novel source of nutrition. 
  • Understanding of plasma half-lives for cannabinoids will allow veterinarians to work with cattle producers to establish withdrawal intervals to ensure exposed cattle can enter the food supply. 
  • Additionally, understanding of cannabinoid pharmacology is needed if IH and hemp byproducts are to be considered by the US FDA and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for inclusion into animal diet.

On interrogating this research, one commentator also made the following remarks, which bear further consideration.

And of course, they need more research to answer the additional questions that they bring up.  They now need to "understand plasma half-lives for cannabinoids" and need an "understanding of cannabinoid pharmacology".  

The establishment of a "withdrawal" period is what I find really interesting and would be a challenge.  Basically, the cows would need a drug test before they can be sent to slaughter.  If such a protocol was established, I think that we all know what could happen; falsification of test results is a strong possibility because it is basically about the money, which always depends on speed to market.

What I also find especially troubling is that in the discussion session, the authors state that their findings can be used to develop strategies for cattle accidently exposed to IH and hemp by-products.  

The need to monitor this industry and the management of its growing waste products is imperative if the health and well-being of people, as well as animals, is a priority. The rush to market of cannabis by ‘voting for medicine’ initiatives is a staggering backward step for a so-called evidence-based scientifically anchored culture. 

If indeed, this bio-waste can be proven utterly safe and beneficial as animal feed, with absolutely no potential harms permitted, this may be one positive for an industry that has proven in past decades that salesmanship trumps science every time.

More thorough and robust research is needed at all levels and the tightening of regulations around ‘supplements’, of which there is currently little to none in the United States, Australia, and other lax jurisdictions. The time for ‘free pass’ on these untrailed or clinically untested products must end for the sake of community and animal well-being.

 

Further Reading

Swiss Cattle Banned from Eating Hemp https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss-cows-banned-from-eating-grass/4385896

Plasma concentrations of eleven cannabinoids in cattle following oral administration of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa)

The results of the finding of this study have implications for IH (Industrial Hemp) as an agriculture commodity. In the short-term, these findings can be used to develop strategies for cattle accidently exposed to IH and hemp by-products, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has explicitly stated cannabinoids are considered adulterants in food production species. However, cattle and other ruminants are ideally suited to utilize IH and the by-products of cannabinoid production from IH as a novel source of nutrition. Understanding of plasma half-lives for cannabinoids will allow veterinarians to work with cattle producers to establish withdrawal intervals to ensure exposed cattle can enter the food supply. Additionally, understanding of cannabinoid pharmacology is needed if IH and hemp by-products are to be considered by the US FDA and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for inclusion into animal diets. For complete research www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69768-4

F.D.A. Regulations on Food contains THC or CBD  

10. Is it legal, in interstate commerce, to sell a food (including any animal food or feed) to which THC or CBD has been added?

A. No. Under section 301(ll) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(ll)], it is prohibited to introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce any food (including any animal food or feed) to which has been added a substance which is an active ingredient in a drug product that has been approved under section 505 of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 355], or a drug for which substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and for which the existence of such investigations has been made public. There are exceptions, including when the drug was marketed in food before the drug was approved or before the substantial clinical investigations involving the drug had been instituted or, in the case of animal feed, that the drug is a new animal drug approved for use in feed and used according to the approved labeling. However, based on available evidence, FDA has concluded that none of these is the case for THC or CBD. FDA has therefore concluded that it is a prohibited act to introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce any food (including any animal food or feed) to which THC or CBD has been added. FDA is not aware of any evidence that would call into question these conclusions. Interested parties may present the agency with any evidence that they think has bearing on this issue. Our continuing review of information that has been submitted thus far has not caused us to change our conclusions.

FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD) | FDA

Dalgarno Institute Research Team