02 Feb Cannabis Alone Cannot Kill But Coroners Can Return Irrational Verdicts
The Coroner’s verdict in the Gemma Moss death is dubious to say the least. It seems that no cause of death could be identified but high levels of THC were detected so that was deemed to be the cause. Unfortunately, in English law, a coroner’s verdict is a finding of fact, so unless the verdict is overturned, it’s a fact, in law, that Gemma died from using cannabis.
I wrote to the Bournemouth Coroner’s office asking for full details of the evidence, explaining that, in the interests of harm reduction it was important that we get the information out to our members as quickly as possible. He refused, stating that he “cannot treat [me] as a properly interested person, as defined by the Act. The cause of death was given by a duly qualified pathologist after careful examination.”
So I can only base my assessment on the newspaper reports of Dr Kudair Hussein’s evidence:
“The level of cannabinoids in the blood were 0.1 to 0.15 milligrams per litre, this is considered as moderate to heavy cannabis use. I looked through literature and it’s well known that cannabis is of very low toxicity but there are reports which say cannabis can be considered as a cause of death because it can induce a cardiac arrest.” Source: The Daily Telegraph
The THC Level Detected In Gemma’s Blood Was Extraordinarily High.This does seem to be an extraordinarily high concentration of THC. Usually, the measurement is made in ng/ml (nanograms per millilitre) so, if my maths is correct, the level detected was 100 – 150 ng/ml. This study, by Matthew Atha, doesn’t even contemplate levels of more than 90 ng/ml but that is within minutes of smoking. Blood concentrations reduce by around 80% within half an hour. I think we can safely assume it was several hours after smoking that Gemma’s blood was tested.So something really doesn’t add up here. How was the concentration of THC so high, so long after Gemma smoked cannabis? I wonder whether a powerful synthetic cannabinoid was involved? Was the cannabis tested?
Cannabis Users Are Their Own Worst Enemies When They Descend To Abuse And Anti-Social Behaviour.
The hysterical reaction from cannabis enthusiasts has not been helpful. There has been a torrent of abuse published online. When are people going to learn that such behaviour works directly against the cause? It’s exactly the same as protests involving gratuitous defiance of the law, smoking dope in public, often with children involved. It plays straight into the hands of the Daily Mail and the government. It provides ministers with the perfect excuse to ignore the campaign.
Also, the idea of complaining to the NHS about Dr Kudair Hussein is ridiculous. He gave evidence. It was the coroner who decided the verdict. The only way to overturn it is by judicial review. Gemma’s mother has been in touch with CLEAR and we hope to be able to guide her on the way forward. She wrote that “I strongly disagree with her death being put down to cannabis”.
The British Tabloid Press Thrives On Printing Sensationalist Stories About Cannabis.
In fact, the reporting hasn’t really been that bad. The story had to be reported precisely because it is so unusual. When I was interviewed by BBC TV I was able to get out the facts that 8 – 9,000 deaths every year are caused directly by alcohol and 100, 000 by tobacco. Really, this is the most important point. Relatively speaking, cannabis is very, very safe. If, instead of all the angry outrage, campaigners had concentrated on getting that message out, far more good could have been achieved.
The worst press coverage was in The Metro and its headline was simply a lie. There is no “proof” that cannabis can kill. However, there is nothing to be done about it because in the UK, newspapers are allowed to print lies in their headlines. I’m perfectly serious, the Press Complaints Commission will not consider complaints about headlines alone. It is a corrupt institution which acts not in the interests of the public but in the interests of publishers.The Press Complaints Commission Protects Newspapers That Publish Lies In Headlines.
There is evidence that cannabis can cause cardiovascular problems. The explanation is that it is an outcome of myocardial tissue ischemia caused by tachycardia. That means a reduction in blood supply caused by an irregular heart beat which will be much more serious if someone has any narrowing of the blood vessels caused by arterial disease.Cardiac arrest following cannabis use: a case report.
In most of these studies other drugs, usually alcohol, were also involved. Nevertheless, there is valid evidence of cannabis being implicated in heart attacks that cannot just be dismissed by angry stoners. The crucial point is that such events are very, very rare and cannabis is very, very safe.
The verdict in this inquest is clearly unsafe. Other factors such as alcohol, anti depressants, tobacco and possible arterial disease have not been considered. However, given the inexplicably high THC level detected, it may be true that cannabinoids, either natural or synthetic, were a component cause of Gemma Moss’ death. The most important point in all of this though is that three children have lost their mother and a whole family has been devastated. Our very deepest and most sincere sympathy goes out to them.