Marijuana Overdose
A Louisiana womans death is considered to be the first-ever recorded death due to marijuana overdose. While the coroner is “100 percent sure”, experts say otherwise. Brent Barnett / Pixabay

Despite skepticism from cannabis experts, the coroner who did the autopsy of a woman from Louisiana is 100 percent sure that the primary cause of death was a marijuana overdose.

A coroner from Louisiana who said that a woman died from marijuana overdose, considered the first in the United States, stands by his report.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, St John the Baptist Parish coroner Christy Montegut claimed that toxicology reports for a 39-year-old woman who died in February showed that she was killed by an excess amount of THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, in her system.

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

The woman’s name was not released.

Montegut, who has been the coroner at St. John since 1988, believes that this could possibly be an index case in medicine as the first death on record solely as a result of too much exposure to THC.

Some experts and drug researchers, however, are skeptical of the coroner's claim

Keith Humphreys, a former senior policy adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, stated that with the vast amounts of marijuana being consumed in the United States every year, it’s hard to imagine that there haven’t been more marijuana overdose deaths occurring if THC was toxic at consumable levels.

“We know from a really good survey data that Americans use cannabis products billions of times a year, collectively. Not millions of times, but billions of times a year,” Humphreys claimed. “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.”

Humphreys further explained that it is not uncommon for coroners to see a drug in the system, with no other sign as to what may have caused an event leading to death, and therefore conclude that the drug was the cause.

“There’s always some imperfection in these kinds of assessments,” Humphreys added.

Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse—a federal government research institute—stated that there’s never been an adult death attributed to THC.

In Louisiana, Montegut’s report appears to be the first of its kind to attribute a death to THC alone, according to Robert Johannessen, a state Department of Health spokesman. All other deaths he’d seen recorded with THC mentioned involved some kind of combination with another drug.