Town Becomes Hysterical at Thought of Stoned Sheep Running Around

The alarm has been raised. Residents of Wales's Swansea Valley are on the look-out for a flock of hipster sheep that could be rampaging through the quaint countryside after being driven loco by eating the dumped remnants of a suspected marijuana grow.

Really. The British tabloid press and even some international media outlets are all over the story:

The local South Wales Evening Post broke the news with the relatively restrained "Warning sheep high on cannabis could cause havoc in Swansea Valley village" on Monday.

By Tuesday, the tabloids were running with it, and the possibility of pot-crazed sheep had become the reality, at least in the headlines: "'Stoned' Sheep Go on 'Psychotic Rampage' After Eating Cannabis Plants Dumped in Welsh Village," blared the Daily Telegraph, while the Daily Mail offered essentially the same header, but thoughtfully added some explanatory bullet point sub-heads:

  • Sheep went on a 'psychotic rampage' after accidentally eating cannabis
  • The Class B drugs were dumped in a quiet Welsh village and eaten by flock
  • Locals say the sheep have been 'roaming the village' causing havoc
  • Councillor: 'One even entered a bungalow and left a mess in the bedroom'

Scary stuff. After all, who wants to have deal with a flock of psychotic sheep hopped up on reefer? Thankfully, though, we can all relax. It didn't happen and it isn't going to happen.

A couple of facts have been established: Somebody dumped a couple of dozen pots of potting soil and root balls discarded at the end of an apparent marijuana grow, and there is a flock of sheep wandering around the area and stirring up mischief.

All the rest is turning a speculative comment from a local official into fodder for the British tabloids, which have a long and inglorious history of demonizing marijuana and a particular fondness for linking cannabis with psychosis—even, apparently, in sheep.

Here, from the South Wales Evening Post's original story is county councilor Ioan Richard from Rhydypandy complaining mainly about garbage dumping, or "fly-tipping" in the local tongue, and about those darned sheep. He worries that they could eat "cannabis plants," as he refers to the grow remnants:

"There is already a flock of sheep roaming the village causing a nuisance. They are getting in people's gardens and one even entered a bungalow and left a mess in the bedroom.

"I dread to think what will happen if they eat what could well be cannabis plants – we could have an outbreak out of psychotic sheep rampaging through the village."

And there you have it. There is nothing more to this story than Mr. Richard's rather vivid imagination—and lack of basic knowledge about the marijuana plant.

First, the debris soil and root balls from the finished grow contain no THC, the cannabinoid in marijuana that gets you high. Second, even if the sheep were to be munching on actual living pot plants with THC-laden buds, they still wouldn't get high. Raw marijuana doesn't contain THC but the THC precursor, THCA, and must be heated through a process called decarboxylation to turn that THCA into mind-melting THC (smoking it does the trick quite nicely, though).

So, worry not about Welsh woolies on weed. Ponder instead rural litterbugs, rogue flocks of sheep, fly-tipping, Rhydypandy, and tabloid reefer madness. How ineffably twee. 

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