A New Orleans coroner recorded what may be the first US death caused by marijuana use. According to Newsweek (via New Orleans Advocate), a 39-year-old woman was found dead in her apartment after overdosing from vaping THC oil.
Although there have been reported deaths involving marijuana, Coroner Christy Montegut insisted this is the first case in which THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, was the sole drug at hand.
“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.”
Not everyone’s on board, though.
Prior to the case, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a branch of the National Institute of Health, stated that “no known cases of fatal overdose from cannabis use in the epidemiological literature.”
“We know from really good survey data that Americans use cannabis products billions of times a year, collectively,” argued Keith Humphreys, a former senior policy adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, “Not millions of times, but billions of times a year,” the policy adviser said. “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.”
To add even more skepticism to the mix, University of Toronto professor Bernard Le Foll, argued that the THC levels recorded by Montegut were “not very high” and hardly a fatal dose. In fact, he stressed someone would have to smoke over 2,000 joints to be anywhere near fatal.
So, what really happened?
Montegut theorized, “I’m thinking this lady must have vaped this THC oil and got a high level in her system and [it] made her stop breathing, like a respiratory failure.”
Seeing how the legalization of marijuana is factoring heavily into legislation across America — Illinois recently became the 11th state set for recreational use — the timing of this news is curious.
Even so, we still feel confident to puff, puff, and pass.