The Sun “reports” First death by dope. A more detailed version of the article is available at the Telegraph (requires registration): Cannabis is blamed as cause of man’s death. Here are some quotes from that article:
A man of 36 is believed to have become the first person in Britain to die directly from cannabis poisoning.
Lee Maisey smoked six cannabis cigarettes a day for 11 years, an inquest heard. His death, which was registered as having been caused by cannabis toxicity, led to new warnings about the drug, which is due to be reclassified this month as a less dangerous one. …
The inquest heard that Mr Maisey had complained of a headache on Aug 22 last year. Next morning he was found dead at the house he shared with a friend, Jeffrey Saunders, in Summerhill, Pembrokeshire.
Michael Howells, the Pembrokeshire coroner, said Mr Maisey was free from disease and had not drunk alcohol for at least 48 hours. Post-mortem tests showed a high level of cannabinoids in his blood.
He recorded a verdict of death by misadventure because Mr Maisey had died while taking part in an illegal activity. The death led to a warning about the changing strength of cannabis, which is to be reduced to a Class C drug on Jan 29.
Take a close look at the description. An inquest was held and no other causes of death were evident, so the mere fact of cannabinoids in the blood was determined that it must be the cause of death. Unless someone has a more detailed version of the facts presented at this inquest, I have to believe that this does not represent a proven and documented case of death by marijuana overdose.
The article then brings out the usual group of drug warriors who don’t realize how silly they sound when they use this as justification for jailing thousands of people.
The shadow home secretary, David Davis, said last night: “This highlights what we have been saying about the effects of cannabis all along. When will people wake up to the fact that cannabis can be a harmful drug?”
OK, David. Let’s just take a little look at that. Let’s assume that it really was an overdose (the first in recorded history). Millions of people have smoked pot for thousands of years. And now that we have one death, “Ooh, look at how dangerous that is!” Harmful drug? Aspirin poisoning causes 60 deaths a year in the U.S. Catastrophic liver failure from Tylenol overdoses causes 150 deaths a year, and Viagra causes death in 5 of every 100,000 prescriptions. We’re not locking those people up, are we?
Here’s a suggestion for the shadow secretary — put a warning on packages of marijuana cigarettes suggesting that if you smoke every day, you should limit it to five.
But the thing is, I’m still not convinced that you can overdose from marijuana. Let’s take a look at a piece of a report put out by the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency Administrative Judge:
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Drug Enforcement Administration
In The Matter Of MARIJUANA RESCHEDULING PETITION
Docket No. 86-22
OPINION AND RECOMMENDED RULING, FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE FRANCIS L. YOUNG, Administrative Law Judge
DATED: SEPTEMBER 6, 1988
Section 8 of Judge Young’s “Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision.”
7.æ Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50.æ The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity.æ A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success.æ Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.
8.æ At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000.æ In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette.æ NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams.æ A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.
9.æ In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.
Now, let’s say you believe everything the drug warriors say and think that marijuana is 30 times as potent today. How you’d smoke 6 joints a day of really potent pot is beyond me. Plus, pot smokers are able to regulate their intake. If they smoke really potent pot, they tend to smoke less. But, what the hell, let’s assume. Then it would only take 50 pounds of pot in 15 minutes.
First marijuana overdose? Yeah, right.
Update: Summary from Coroner lists “Probable Cannabis Toxicity” as medical cause of death, which tends to confirm the notion that it was a default choice rather than one based on any specific evidence other than the (duh) presence of cannabinoids.