Stephanie Hamborsky

Photo Credit: Isabella Palacios | Daily Texan Staff

As the Texas Legislature continues to debate legalizing medical marijuana for humans, people do have the option of purchasing related products for members of their households — specifically, their pets.

Websites such as Canna-Pet and Canna Companion sell cannabinoid (CBD) products for pets, claiming they benefit animal health. These products do not have enough THC, a compound attributed to the “high” users get from cannabis, to have a psychoactive effect, said Sarah Brandon, Canna Companion founder and veterinarian. 

Canna Companion also monitors CBD to THC ratios to determine what balance benefits animals the most, Brandon said.

“The [CBD to THC] ratio of six to one in the human world tends to be the golden ratio,” Brandon said. “When we went above five to one, dogs and cats had more side effects, and we weren’t seeing a corresponding effect in benefits.”

Stephanie Hamborsky, a Plan II and biology sophomore and president of the UT chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said the idea of CBD products for animals makes sense.

“In all mammals, we have cannabinoid receptors,” Hamborsky said. “It would make sense that dogs are prescribed marijuana because they probably respond to it similarly [to humans].”

SSDP, a national organization, works toward more sensible policies on drug use and abuse in the U.S., Hamborsky said. She added that experts should be able to make the call on whether to prescribe CBD or medical marijuana products.

“If professionals have analyzed the data and believe it can be helpful, they should have the ability to [prescribe it],” Hamborsky said.

CBD products are considered unapproved drugs by the Food and Drug Administration, which issued warning letters in February to several companies that advertised CBD products, including Canna-Pet and Canna Companion.

“It is important to note that these products are not approved by FDA for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease, and, often, they do not even contain the ingredients found on the label,” the FDA said in a report released March 3. 

Brandon said she never intended for Canna Companions to become an FDA approved drug and immediately made changes to comply with wording restrictions.

“It’s just a supplement,” Brandon said. “We saw a product that had the potential to help a lot of animals without causing a lot of side effects … and wanted people to discuss the medical benefits of trying these compounds as well as the negatives.”

Morgan Ehmling, a Plan II and biology freshman, has a Boxer dog with hip problems. Her dog has been on steroid injections, and her veterinarian is contemplating using laser therapy to relieve the dog’s pain further, Ehmling said.

“Taking a natural cannabinoid supplement would be better than shooting my dog with some lasers,” Ehmling said.

Ehmling said she would approach this option cautiously.

“I feel like if I knew someone close enough to me who [used CBD for a pet], I’d go for it full force, but I’d do a ton of research first,” Ehmling said. 

Hamborsky said she would also consider giving her cat CBD products as long as there are sufficient studies about the compound’s safety.

“My only concern is the psychoactive potential of THC, but there are other marijuana derived substances like CBD — cannabidiol — that deal with pain relief,” Hamborsky said. “But I would definitely consider that for my cat.”

Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) filed a bill Monday to legalize marijuana in Texas.

If passed, HB 2165 would repeal offenses related to possessing, selling and growing marijuana in Texas. The bill retracts all mentions of the word “marihuana” mentioned in the current provisions of the law.

In a statement, Simpson said, “God did not make a mistake when he made marijuana.” According to Simpson, the government should not have a role in marijuana regulation.

“Let’s allow the plant to be utilized for good — helping people with seizures, treating warriors with [post-traumatic stress disorder], producing fiber and other products — or simply for beauty and enjoyment,” Simpson said in the statement. “Government prohibition should be for violent actions that harm your neighbor — not of the possession, cultivation, and responsible use of plants.”

Simpson said marijuana should be regulated like any other plant.

 “I am proposing that this plant be regulated like tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee.” Simpson said. “Current marijuana policies are not based on science or sound evidence, but rather  misinformation and fear.”

Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. 

Stephanie Hamborsky, Plan II and biology junior and president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said she is in favor of the bill. Hamborsky said she believes selling marijuana in the state would aid Texas’ economy. Colorado made $34.4 million in revenue from recreational marijuana sales between January–October 2014, according to The Washington Post.

 “I think overall this bill is a good thing. I think lawmakers are realizing … it is a huge economic incentive,” Hamborsky said. “They can tax it and regulate it, and the money goes to the state.”

 The legalization of marijuana would also help students charged with the use or possession of marijuana, according to Hamborsky.

 “As a student at UT, you’re working hard, and you want to graduate and get a job,” Hamborsky said. “If you have a blemish like that on your record, that doesn’t reflect your competence as an employee or professionalism. It can be a barrier for students.”

 There were 12 offenses related to the possession of drug paraphernalia last year on campus — 11 of which were cleared, according to University of Texas Police Department crime statistics.

 When asked whether UTPD supports the legalization of marijuana, UTPD spokeswoman Ronda Weldon said UTPD would uphold the new law if the bill were to pass.

 “The UTPD enforces whatever law is on the book,” Weldon said.

 Bridget Guien, communications director for College Republicans and economics freshman, said the organization is divided on the legalization of marijuana.

 “We currently do not have a stance on the legalization of marijuana,” Guien said in an email. “The members of our organization hold a variety of different opinions on this subject so I am unable to give a general opinion.”

University Democrats support medical and recreational use, production and sale of marijuana in Texas, according to Ashley Alcantara, UDems communications director and international relations and global studies senior. However, Alcantara said she thinks marijuana should be regulated in a similar fashion as alcohol. 

“University Democrats supports the regulation and decriminalization of marijuana, which aligns with the platform of the Texas Democratic Party.” Alcantara said in an email. “Both policies would create more reasonable law enforcement practices and reduce the incarcerated population, which are both very pressing issues.”

A student works at the UT Microfarm on Saturday morning. The farm serves various purposes, including providing research opportunities to students and donating to a local food shelter.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

A few blocks east of I-35, surrounded by tailgates and University office buildings, lies a little piece of farmland where students grow tomatoes, sweet potatoes and lavender. Since it was established in 2012, the UT Microfarm has grown from a Green Fee project with potential to a sanctuary for students.

Development assistant Stephanie Hamborsky, a Plan II and biology junior, said working on the farm helps her relax.

“It provides a lot of stress relief to come out here, take a break from being indoors and studying, and connect with nature,” Hamborsky said. “And do something that a lot of kids in our generation have no experience with.” 

Development director Dominique Vyborny, a supply chain management senior, said, when the farm was founded in 2012, its main purpose was to give students an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from. Before she became a student at UT, Vyborny started a community garden in her backyard and worked at the Natural Gardener, an organic garden center in southwest Austin.

“The ability to learn how to garden was given to me freely, and so I truly try to influence a culture of passing that on here at the farm,” Vyborny said. 

Katie Lewis, the farm manager and biology sophomore, said, before working on the farm she had never tried to garden organically. While the UT Microfarm isn’t certified organic, it rarely uses pesticides and implements organic gardening techniques Vyborny learned at the Natural Gardener.

“It’s a lot of improvisation,” Lewis said. “Dominique [Vyborny] tells us what she knows, and she knows a lot. But, basically, we’re just figuring it out for ourselves. It’s exciting because I don’t know everything, but I’m still learning, and every day I get better.”

Hamborsky said the most surprising thing she learned at the farm was how much work goes into growing food.

“Even on this fifth-of-an-acre piece of land, there’s so much work to be done,” Hamborsky said. “It’s just amazing to think about these large-scale agricultural systems that require so much work and how little we really appreciate our food.”

The UT Microfarm also provides research opportunities for students. The shed on the farm was a student architecture project, and the farm’s entire irrigation system was a project by a student investigating different irrigation techniques. 

“I’m really interested in building a rainwater collection system here,” Hamborsky said. “I think that’s a really integral part of having a sustainable system.” 

The farm sells most of its produce at its on-site farm stand, Hope Farmer’s Market, and to the University dining halls. It also donates to a local food shelter. Lewis said it is important for people to see where their food is coming from.

“It’s not coming from some huge commercial thing way out in California where you don’t know what’s going into it or how it was grown,” Lewis said. “You can see where plants are grown, and you can see them on the vine, and you can see them being harvested, and then you can buy them and take them home.”