A popular, spurious claim circulates on the Internet that not a single person has ever died as a result of marijuana, and therefore marijuana should not be a regulated drug.
The statement itself is misleading, as most of the time those offering it actually mean, “It has never been documented that a person died as the result of a marijuana overdose.” However, credible scientific evidence coupled with information gathered by the Food and Drug Administration and others begs to differ.
FDA: Marijuana Linked to Nearly 300 Deaths
According to Freedom of Information requests submitted by the group ProCon.org, from 1997 to 2005 the Food and Drug Administration recorded 279 deaths to which marijuana contributed. 187 of these deaths were listed as being directly related to the use of the cannabis plant itself.
These people may not have died from a marijuana overdose, but if they had not used marijuana, they might still be alive today.
Some doctors have also stated they believe the actual number of marijuana-related deaths is probably much higher because marijuana is often dismissed as a cause of death due to its “harmless” reputation, the appearance of other substances in the deceased’s toxicology reports, or routine omissions in coroners’ reports.
This assessment was substantiated by an estimate published on ProCon.org linking marijuana to as many as 296 preventable deaths in the year 1990 alone.
Marijuana Causes Strokes and Deaths
A 2004 report in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics examined three case studies in which otherwise-healthy adolescent boys were admitted to hospitals due to strokes following heavy marijuana use.
The study concluded that smoking an amount of marijuana to which the user was unaccustomed (i.e. going on a marijuana “binge”) could cause a drop in blood pressure, which in turn leads to a very uncommon type of stroke known as a cerebellar infarction.
These three case studies were backed up by additional case studies illustrating similar principles, going back to the 1980s:
Other Deaths Caused By Marijuana
- A 2001 article in the journal Forensic Science International examined six cardiovascular fatalities directly attributed to marijuana.
- The Drug Abuse Awareness Network documented 157 deaths in 2002 in which marijuana was the only drug involved; two of these deaths were believed to be overdoses, contradicting the notion no one has overdosed on marijuana. The network estimates that as many as 581 marijuana-related deaths occurred in America that year.
The assertion that marijuana is somehow harmless or that no one has ever died from using it is 100% untrue. At best it is inconclusive as to whether or not anyone has actually overdosed on marijuana (some sources indicate yes, while others say no). Marijuana’s contributions to fatalities from strokes, cardiovascular failure, and others, however, are indisputable.
Moreover, it is widely believed marijuana-related deaths are under-reported for a variety of reasons.
Some people will try to dismiss these figures and estimates as somehow being “inconsequential” when compared to deaths from other substances. I find nothing inconsequential about hundreds of people dead from an illegal drug.
A lot of adjectives can be used to describe marijuana. “Harmless,” however, is simply not one of them.
Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.