Headlines about the "devout Christian mother of three" who died from "cannabis poisoning" have circulated far and wide this week after a coroner confirmed that the autopsy found no natural cause for her death and it is "more likely than not that she died from the effects of cannabis."
Gemma Moss, 31, who died with "moderate to heavy levels" of cannabinoids in her blood according to pathologist Dr. Kudair Hussein, was a frequent marijuana user before quitting two years before her death last October. She had started using marijuana again to help her sleep after becoming depressed from a recent breakup. Moss is known to have suffered from depression and was on prescription drugs, though according to the coroner, it did not appear she was taking them at the time of her death. Half a joint was found underneath her body when the ambulance arrived on the night of her death.
It's shocking because it just doesn't happen.
"From half a joint? That's ridiculous," professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Dr. Yasmin Hurd told the Daily News. Dr. Bradley Flansbaum, a hospitalist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said it would be "very, very, very unlikely to get a lethal dose of marijuana if it wasn't adulterated with something." Both said that a marijuana death is only possible if it has been laced with another, harder drug, or if an underlying heart condition or similar ailment were exacerbated by the rush or anxiety from toking up.
Moss' story flies in the face of decades of medical research. According to a report on the toxicity of recreational drugs published by the American Scientist, a person would need to consume more than 1,000 times the effective dose in order to die from marijuana. The report found no published cases that document deaths from smoking marijuana, which it said is safer than getting drunk. It would take just 10 times the amount (of enough alcohol to get buzzed) in order to die from alcohol poisoning.
Stories like these play on the fears of marijuana prohibitionists who cling to whatever evidence they can find that marijuana is harmful. But tell that to Colorado and Washington, where voters (including Bill Gates) legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, and the 20 U.S. states who have approved medical marijuana, with more states in the process of passing similar legislation. And let's not forget to mention Uruguay, the first country to legalize marijuana across the board. Even President Obama, a well-documented former pot smoker, said pot is less dangerous than alcohol.
So let the prohibitionists ride out this sensationalist blip of a story. It's all they've got, since it's pretty clear what we know about marijuana in this day and age, and it's definitely not that it's going to kill you. Just ask the reddittors over at r/trees.