Did smoking pot kill a mother of two in the United Kingdom?
Well, if you're skimming the headlines it sure looks that way. (Via The Daily Beast)
Thirty-one-year-old Gemma Moss died Oct. 28 after reportedly smoking half a joint before bed to help ease her insomnia. Her body was found the next morning by her son's girlfriend. (Via Daily Mail)
According to local pathologist, Dr. Kudair Hussein, no abnormalities were found during Moss' exam that would account for her death — only moderate to heavy levels of marijuana-related chemicals in her blood.
The Telegraph reports Hussein said, "there are reports which say cannabis can be considered as a cause of death because it can induce a cardiac arrest." But in this case, her heart looked fine during examination. Hussein says she died purely from the effects of smoking the drug.
It also noted that laced or sprayed weed with increased potency isn't uncommon and can sometimes cause complications, but that wasn't mentioned as a factor in this case. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Piglop)
Now, a lot of outlets are calling foul on this one, saying there's no way half a joint could kill someone. And everything researchers know about weed's effects backs them up.
According to a review in American Scientist, in order to overdose on marijuana, someone would need to consume more than 1,000 times the average amount it takes to get high.
A spokesperson for NORML UK, a pro-marijuana group, told the BBC "You'll need 20-40,000 joints to reach a lethal dose. It is believed that asphyxiation would actually be the cause of death were this to happen."
And WebMD points to two major studies showing cannabis doesn't kill. One involving 65,177 men and women ages 15-49 tracked over the course of 10 years. The marijuana smokers died no sooner than the non-smokers. The other study had 45,450 participants and came up with similar results.
Now, compare that to the around 50,000 people who die from alcohol poisoning in the U.S. every year and the 400,000 people who die from smoking tobacco. (Via NORML)
And what about the 300 deaths every year attributed to acetaminophen poisoning? That's the main ingredient in Tylenol. (Via ProPublica)
Scary stuff — and it makes the case of Gemma Moss all the more unusual. Friends of Moss described her as a lively, fun and committed churchgoer and single mother. They say her death is nothing short of shocking.