​Stoned rabbits a concern for DEA as Utah debates medical marijuana bill

Reuters / Blair Gable
Utah is considering a bill that could make it the 24th state, along with Washington, DC, to legalize medical marijuana. But one Drug Enforcement Agency official is worried the move could impact the environment and even result in too many stoned rabbits.

DEA special agent Matt Fairbanks, also a member of Utah's marijuana eradication team, testified against the bill recently, explaining how quickly growing a cash crop like marijuana could get out of hand and the devastation that happens to the environment.

“I deal in facts. I deal in science,” Fairbanks told a Senate committee.

“I have seen entire mountainsides subject to pesticides, harmful chemicals and deforestation and erosion. The ramifications to the flora and animal life – even rabbits that have cultivated a taste for marijuana. One of them refused to leave us and we took all the marijuana around him, but his natural instincts to run were somehow gone."

As noted by the Guardian, though, Fairbanks did not detail why growing marijuana would be more damaging than harvesting crops such as corn and wheat, both of which are grown using similar techniques and pesticides.

The Utah bill under consideration would legalize edible marijuana, allowing it to be cultivated and sold in products such as brownies, candy and lozenges. It would also allow for indoor growing operations, with seed-to-sale tracking, testing and regulation. Patients would be issued a medical marijuana card and a debit card to process their payments.

The Utah Senate committee gave the bill its first hearing on Thursday, with comments from supporters and dissenters. The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Mark Madsen, said he began researching marijuana after having back pain for years. When his doctor recommended marijuana, he travelled to Colorado to try it through cannabis-infused gummy bears and an electronic-cigarette device.

READ MORE: Smoking marijuana is 114 times safer than drinking alcohol – study

Madsen said he found the treatment effective and added that if the state can push past years of propaganda and misunderstanding regarding pot, it would bring compassion and freedom to those who are suffering.

“This bill introduces a very small element of highly regulated freedom to willing patients and willing doctors,” Madsen said, according to the Associated Press.

Republican Sen. Todd Weiler told the committee when he was in Nevada recently he saw a billboard with a giant pot leaf on it.

“It said, 'Call Dr. Weed' and a phone number. Is that what we're [bringing] to Utah?” he said before casting one of the two dissenting votes.

The bill passed the Senate committee vote 3-2. Madsen is confident his bill will pass the GOP-controlled Senate, where it heads for debate. If passed, the bill then goes before the GOP-controlled House.