Dr Kudair Hussein verdict questioned: Cannabis toxicity not cause of death
By Greg de Hoedt
The media in Britain have promoted a story sensationally claiming that a 31 year old woman has become the first to die in Britain of “cannabis toxicity”. Taking the evidence into account can this be possible?
The toxicity of a substance is measured by a scale known as LD50. This scale measures the ratio between the amount needed to get an effect vs the amount needed to be a lethal dose. Cannabis’ LD50 stands at 1:20,000-1:40,000. This means if one joint gives you the desired effect, 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.
The level of cannabis in Gemma Moss’ system was by no means too high.
Pathologist, Dr Kudair Hussein, gave evidence at the Inquest stating that 0.5-1.5ml of THC per litre was found in her blood, claiming this was a moderate to high level. But this is disputable as what is considered a high level of THC can vary massively from person to person.
For example, cancer patients using cannabis as a treatment option have a daily regime of ingesting 1 gram of concentrated cannabis oil daily. This is the equivalent of 10 grams of cannabis taken at once and this is then repeated for 60 days straight as their treatment course.
Two US states have now legalised recreational cannabis sales and have introduced regulatory measures before the product can be sold. Cannabis testing labs are common and analyse thousands of different varieties of the plant on a monthly basis – they see the strongest cannabis in the world and analyse for any any contamination, pesticides or herbicides.
We have not heard whether the remaining cannabis found near Miss Moss’ body was tested. Certainly running standard analytical tests as police do when they bust someone for dealing cannabis would show if this was indeed just cannabis or something stronger. It is not uncommon to see real herbal cannabis sprayed with a synthetic high to increase potency. Where are the rest of the people that smoked it and have there been any other hospital admissions in the area for cannabis induced tachycardia or other pulmonary problems?
In the first week of legal regulation for recreational cannabis going on sale, $5million was taken in by registered outlets. Not one death has been reported, nor has it been since 1996 when Medical Marijuana laws were first passed in California; mainly won by the support of patients using cannabis to slow the progression and lessen the symptoms with HIV and AIDS.
The media have reported she recently stopped using prescription drugs and it is important to note that many guidelines for Pharmaceutical drugs provide a warning not to stop taking them suddenly as this can shock the system and can be fatal. Medications for depression, anxiety and mental health often carry this warning.
A Nottingham University of Medicine study in 1999 funded by the British Heart Foundation showed that Anandamide, the endocannabinoid that is the bodies own version of THC the psychoactive part of cannabis is responsible for reducing blood pressure and relaxes blood vessels.
“These are natural substances present in all our bodies that seem to have important effects on our circulation,” said Professor Brian Pentecost, medical director of the British Heart Foundation. He added he was hopeful “[this] project will shed new light on how we could use these effects to help heart patients.”
Cannabinoids have also been shown to stabalise breathing in studies for its effects on Sleep Apnea, a condition that causes breathing too shallow or completely stopping to breathe while asleep. The published medical study concludes “This study demonstrates potent suppression of sleep-related apnea by both exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids.” It was added that it was important in the development in pathogenesis to sleeping related diseases. This would add further doubt that causes death in sleep and may even show that it helps prevent sleeping related deaths.
The police spend £500m a year on cannabis investigations in the UK – why is it that testing cannabis is important when it comes to putting someone behind bars, but not when it’s to help find the cause of death if cannabis has been implicated? Surely if it had been a powder found under Miss Moss at the scene of her death then lab analysis would have been carried out as part of standard procedure?
With these points considered the science suggests that “cannabis toxicity” was not the cause of Gemma Moss’ death. NORML UK would recommend that a panel of doctors well researched in cannabis and humans undertake a review to assess the circumstances surrounding Miss Moss’ death, in order to determine what it was that actually killed her. We also believe that Dr Hussein should be held accountable for what is at best ignorance and at worst a willful disregard of scientific fact. Miss Moss’ family deserve to know what actually happened, they do not deserve to have their family members memory tainted by sensationalist and unscientific headlines and news reports.