British media convinced girl died from smoking half a joint of marijuana
February 1, 2014
On Monday, British news outlets were sounding the alarm over Gemma Moss, a 31-year-old British woman who made news as the very first person in human history to die of “cannabis toxicity” according to her coroner. And wouldntcha know—she died from only half a joint.
The Telegraph, HuffPo UK, Daily Mail, the Mirror Online, International Business Times and more were spouting headlines that Moss was the “first woman in UK to be poisoned to death by cannabis.” And yet the notion of “lethal cannabis toxicity” has been debunked time and time again—not just in UK but everywhere.
In 2001, the British Journal of Psychiatry noted “its acute toxicity is extremely low: no deaths directly due to acute cannabis use have ever been reported.” And a 2011 UK study from the National Health Service on the “acute adverse effects associated with the use of cannabis” noted, “No cases of fatal overdose have been reported. No confirmed cases of human deaths.” Just weeks ago after a story about a rash of marijuana overdoses following Colorado’s legalization was found to be a hoax, HuffPo ran an apt story called “Here’s An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose.” It featured only a gif of pandas napping, since no humans have ever died from pot.
A coroner who examined Moss’s body said she died of cardiac arrest, but could find nothing that caused it. With nothing else out of the ordinary in her system except for cannabis, he simply concluded that it killed her.
Dr. Kudair Hussein told an inquest:
“The level of canabinoids in the blood were 0.1 to 0.15 miligrams per litre, this is considered as moderate to heavy cannabis use. I looked through literature and it’s well known that cannabis is of very low toxicity. But there are reports which say cannabis can be considered as a cause of death because it can induce a cardiac arrest. With the balance of probability that it is more likely than not that she died from the effects of cannabis.”
Funny enough, one news outlet that did bother to question the claim was the New York Daily News, who got a doctor and psychiatry professor to tell them the coroner was almost definitely wrong. “From half a joint? That’s ridiculous,” said Dr. Yasmin Hurd.
Here’s why it’s ridiculous: Studies place the amount of THC that it would take to kill you at 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount that it takes to get you high. Compare this to lethal ranges of 20 times the amount of alcohol it takes to get drunk and five times the amount of heroin it takes to get high. Moss only had a “moderate” amount of cannabis in her system after reportedly smoking half a joint, as was her regular habit. To die from “cannabis toxicity,” she would have needed to smoke somewhere in the ballpark of 20,000 to 40,000 more joints that night than she did.
Her coroner also said she “suffered from depression and was on prescription drugs to try and deal with that although it would not appear she was taking them at the time of her death.”
While Hussein says “the balance of probability” is that Moss was the world’s very first person to die of “cannabis toxicity,” Occam’s razor would suggest that the coroners simply have no idea what caused her death—and that a whole slew of news outlets made themselves look ridiculous yesterday.
As reported by deathandtaxesmag