Can Marijuana Kill You Dead?

Doctors in Australia removed a bag of weed that was stuck in a man’s nos, for 18 years.

iStockphoto / VasilevKirill

When the cannabis advocacy community first started trying to get the nation to see that all of this pot prohibition business was complete and total nonsense, they often pushed the phrase, “Marijuana is Safer Than Alcohol.” The idea was that Americans have been getting liquored up for decades and suffering the stiff repercussions of this behavior. After all, alcohol is responsible for snuffing out 88,000 people a year in the United States alone. Boozehounds are dropping dead from liver-related issues, all sorts of cancer, heart disease and more. But weed, man, people have been smoking that shit for thousands of years, and the best we can tell is that nobody has ever ended up on a slab down at the local morgue because of it. Still, the federal government says that the people caught in possession of this plant are the dregs of society and should be put down.

Well, a funny thing happened a few years ago. Marijuana started going legal in some parts of the country. Colorado and Washington were the first to launch this experiment, creating thousands of new jobs, contributing to local and state economies and freeing up law enforcement to fight real crime instead of wasting the bulk of their time harassing people over a harmless plant.

More states followed suit, and we now live in a time when well over half the nation has some kind of marijuana law on the books. What’s really impressive is that, in spite of more people having legal access to weed, there doesn’t appear to be any significant health implications as a result.

But then, earlier this year, someone reportedly died from using cannabis. In a report from the New Orleans Advocate, Coroner Christy Montegut said that a 39-year-old Louisiana woman died from vaping THC oil.

“It looked like it was all THC because her autopsy showed no physical disease or afflictions that were the cause of death,” Montegut explained. “There was nothing else identified in the toxicology—no other drugs, no alcohol. There was nothing else.”

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Naturally, the news that science had apparently found a way to craft weed strong enough to kill us started to wig people out. This was true, even though health experts argued that if a fatal overdose from marijuana was possible, a shit ton of people would be going to an early grave. There are roughly 55 million regular marijuana users in the United States, so if getting taken out by this plant was an actual risk, we’d be hearing a lot more about it. In fact, our entire staff would be dead!

“So, that means that if the risk of death was one in a million, we would have a couple thousand cannabis overdose deaths a year,” said Keith Humphreys, a former senior policy adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

This means there’s probably no killer weed. At least not in the literal sense.

Still, it turns out that the Louisiana woman was not exactly the first person to die from using marijuana. Well, not exactly anyway. A 2014 study in Forensic Science International suggests that there are actually two cases of “sudden death” as a result of cannabis use. Scientists say that a couple of men died from heart-related issues that appeared to have been worsened through the use of marijuana. Yet, doctors cannot be sure if these men didn’t already have some preexisting heart problems that contributed to their demise. It cannot be discounted, though, that several studies published throughout the years have found that weed might contribute to an increased risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, stroke and arrhythmia.

It is worth pointing out that even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the very agency that has made it their business for years to help run the government’s pot propaganda scam, admits there has never been a reported case of a fatal marijuana overdose. “No deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported,” reads the agency’s latest fact sheet on marijuana.

For the stoner-in-training who anxiously clicked this article in hopes of finding out whether smoking a little grass was going to kill them, the answer is: probably not. It just doesn’t appear likely that a healthy individual would have such a tragic response to cannabis consumption. A lot of times, however, consuming too much weed (this can happen when edibles are involved) can make it difficult for a person to breathe, which can spawn a savage panic attack that can convince them they are going to die.

But to actually drop dead from this experience is rare. Some might even say impossible. There is research showing that a person cannot physically smoke enough weed to cause death. That would take somewhere around 2,000 joints, according to Bernard Le Foll, a professor at the University of Toronto.

The best advice we can offer someone new to the weed scene is to always start slow. Not so you don’t die, but to keep from feeling like that’s what’s going to happen. It’s relatively easy to moderate when smoking weed, but the consumption of THC-infused edibles and beverages can get a little tricky sometimes. If the recommended dose says 5-10 mg THC, we might suggest cutting that in half.

Even 10 mg of THC can be uncomfortable for a person who is not yet used to the effects. Just get a feel for what is right for you and then take it up a notch if you feel so inclined. There are no rules here. Only that we have a good time and come out on the other side without a fucking horror story to tell.


Mike Adams is a freelance writer for High Times, Cannabis Now, and Forbes. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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