JAN 24, 2019 12:05 PM PST

Argentinian Mice With the Munchies

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

Here is an interesting story. In April of last year, BBC.com reported that an Argentinian police station fired eight officers for losing 540 kg (1,191 lbs) of marijuana from the police warehouse. What was the cops' defense? The mice ate it! Mice are notorious for eating grain stores, hence the domestication of the cat, but nearly 2,000 lbs of weed? That is a lot of ganja.

Photo source: Pixabay.com

A spokesperson for Judge Adrián González Charvay said that according to experts at Buenos Aires University, "mice wouldn't mistake the drug for food" - and even if they did, "a lot of corpses would have been found in the warehouse". The 540 kg was missing from a stock of 6,000 kg that had been stored there for two years. A big piece of evidence implicating the eight policemen: the commissioner (now under investigation) did not sign the inventory for the impounded drugs when he left his post in April 2017.

While the story ends there, it leaves some intriguing scientific questions behind. For one, if the mice did eat the cannabis, how much could an individual mouse actually ingest? Well, first of all, eating straight marijuana will not make you high. The phytocannabinoid delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol is fat soluble and will pass right through your system. Many connoisseurs of cannabis cuisine first bind ground-up marijuana to a fatty substance, like butter, and then use that to make edibles (only in states where that is legal, mind you).

Unless the cops were simmering their stock in butter, it is very unlikely that mice would be able to get high when eating it. Would they still eat it at all? Well, according to the Terminix website (which could be considered experts in the nature of mice), mice are not picky eaters. In nature, mice will eat almost any type of vegetation including plants, fruits, corn, oats, mushrooms, roots, and even tree bark. Also, a brief Google source will turn up tons of anecdotal evidence of unscrupulous mice owners feeding their pets cannabis buds (not recommended). So, yes, it is plausible that mice will eat raw cannabis (although always take anecdotal evidence with a grain of salt). 

Photo source: Pixabay.com

Okay, let us, for now, assume that mice do eat cannabis for food but not for a buzz. What about cases where mice are given THC and do get high? How much could a mouse "smoke" (i.e. experimenter administered) before it kills them? According to one review, the overall acute toxicity of THC is low. The mean lethal dose (LD50) of oral THC in rats is 800 mg/kg to 1900 mg/kg. In other words, about 10,000 times their own body weight.   

So, those eight policemen may actually have been telling the truth, though it seems rather doubtful. Mice apparently (probably) do eat cannabis, and they can get high if given THC the proper way, but it would take an incredible amount of THC to reach lethal levels. Do you think we have a watertight case here? Not beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sources: www.BBC.com, www.inverse.com, www.terminix.comPain Research and Management: Vol 10 Suppl A

About the Author
  • I am passionate about science. My specialties include neuroscience and psychology. I have over 10 years of biomedical neuroscience research at Arizona State University and the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center.
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