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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Those "Pot-Fed Pigs" Aren't Getting High, But Possibly Healthier

Posted By on Wed, May 22, 2013 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Is this pig high or are you?
  • Is this pig high or are you?

The Washington state hog farmer whose pigs are fed marijuana trim has been all the rage on the Internet over the last few days.

And with good reason: the barnyard animals who had leaves, stems and roots -- the otherwise fit-for-nothing-but-compost leftovers after the selaeable buds are processed -- mixed into their feed grew heavier and had meat that was redder and more savory, according to reports. The "grass-fed" pork is a hit with consumers, who bought out all available stock at Seattle's Pike Place Market, Reuters reported.

Must be the drugs, right?

Nope. Raw cannabis doesn't get you high. And for a good reason: it doesn't contain THC. But many claim that what raw weed trimmings do contain are healthy for man -- so why not beast?

It's easy to see why the Internet -- as well as reputable news organizations -- fell victim to the "those pigs must be stoned" trap. Hog farmer Susannah Gross says her pot-fed pigs ended up "20 to 30 pounds heavier" than the other pigs from the same litter. And since marijuana gives you the munchies, it must have been thusly with the pigs, right?

It's an amusing story, but fatally flawed. A very simple but very crucial scientific process called "decarboxylation" must occur before marijuana has its psychoactive properties. And if you are a smoker, chances are you have a decarboxylizing machine in your pocket right now.

Raw cannabis contains only trace amounts of tetrahydracannibinol, or THC. Instead, raw cannabis has THC-A, or Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, which is THC's "biosynthetic prercursor."

THC-A is easily transformed into THC when heat is applied. That's why burnt cannabis in a joint has psychoactive properties. Ditto with weed mixed into brownies or other edibles.

So those pigs weren't stoned simply because their weed feed didn't contain THC (unless their feed was heated or their pigpen was being hotboxed). But THC-A has its own benefits, according to medical marijuana advocates who favor juicing of raw cannabis.

The science on THC-A seems a bit fuzzy, in sharp contrast to the decades-old findings that THC shrinks tumors. But it seems that THC-A along with a second healing cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD)'s biosynthetic precursor, CBD-A, may have some healing properties, according to Dr. William Courtney, a physician in Willits who's produced a video on the issue.

So while the stoned pigs story is an effective publicity stunt, it could possibly be a bit more. Possibly.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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