This article originally appeared on VICE US
The World Wide Web is massive. Not every video can go viral, even if it really deserves it.
That would explain why at the time of writing a mere 552 people have gotten a good look at this work of contemporary art, which was uploaded in 2013:
The scene opens on a slug, in cover of darkness, enjoying a spliff as upbeat stock music plays.
Four years later, we have relatively little context in which to place this short film, but let's try to dissect what's going on here.
According to two invertebrate experts I talked to, this slug is from the Arionidae family. From there, we can narrow it down to Arion vulgaris by its brownish color and bright orange foot sole.
As the videographer skillfully maneuvers his iPhone 5S or whatever people were using for cameras in 2013, we get a better look at what this beautiful slime boy is up to. It definitely appears to be gnawing the paper. Slugs like paper.
Offering weed to slugs and snails is a meme that never quite grew legs. Making a snail smoke weed, as Reddit would like everyone to know, is not an invention. These guys, for example, put a lighter way too close to a snail while trying to get it to smoke a joint. Another snail just said no.
Slugs also like to ruin marijuana crops, happily chewing through the leaves and stems and laying eggs all up in your bud. They're such a recurring annoyance for growers that slugs have earned a spot in the venerable Cannabis Encyclopedia, a cultivation and consumption guide.
But for as much as there is to unpack in this video, there are as many questions unanswered: Do slugs get the munchies from marijuana plants because they're capable of feeling the effects of THC, or do they just indiscriminately eat green leafy plants? Would dried, rolled weed have the same allure as a chlorophyll-laden living leaf? Does ingesting marijuana harm slugs?
Smoke isn't rolling out of its respiratory opening, so we can at least say it's not inhaling.
The invertebrate experts who were kind enough to entertain my questions were also largely stumped.
"Slugs are pretty general herbivores, and will eat most any plant material they can find, I guess including joints...?" Morgan Jackson, an entomology graduate student at University of Guelph in Ontario, told me in an email. "No clue what the effects would be, or even how you'd tell given their naturally stoned behaviour." Fair point.
Dr. Menno Schilthuizen, a snail and slug researcher at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, also posits that it's the paper our hero is after. "Many slugs are rather generalistic detritus feeders," he told me. "They would definitely eat the outside of the 'spliff,' as snails and slugs have a predilection for paper, but I'm not too sure about the content."
Here is where our tale takes a bleak turn. Tobacco powder, or "snuff," Schilthuizen notes, is used as a way to control slugs and snails as pests. Studies show that tobacco is an effective slug-killer, and tobacco extract mixed with ethyl alcohol actually lures them in to die. So if the slug did get through the rolling paper, and if the uploader called it a spliff because it's a weed mixed in with tobacco (that's what the term usually means), the slug was likely harmed or killed.
"Whether they are affected by the cannabidiol in the marijuana, and, if so, in what way, I don't know," Schilthuizen said. There seems to be a gaping scientific hole in research around marijuana's effects on invertebrates.
We can only hope that this slug reached a bit of green before he chomped down on any tobacco. Either way, considering the average lifespan of a slug is 12 months, its work is recognized here posthumously. Rest in peace, little slimer.