As support for marijuana continues to sweep the States, a new German study has some sobering news: Researchers have pinpointed marijuana as the cause of two deaths. Regardless of your position on the drug, it's long been assumed that it couldn't be biologically fatal, and President Obama has even called it "no more dangerous than alcohol." These are the first deaths to ever be scientifically linked to marijuana use.
German researchers from Frankfurt and Dusseldorf university hospitals examined 15 people whose deaths had been linked to marijuana use. They concluded that 13 of the deaths were caused by other factors, but believe that marijuana caused the deaths of two.
The study, published in the journal Forensic Science International, indicated both of the deceased were young: they were 23 and 28. The 23-year-old had had a serious, underlying heart condition that hadn't been detected when he was alive, the study found, and the 28-year-old had a history of cocaine, amphetamine, and alcohol abuse.
Given these factors, marijuana use seems to have been what ultimately caused their deaths, the study concluded. Smoking the drug is known to increase blood pressure when lying down, which could have theoretically caused medical complications.
If this research is accurate, it's clear it doesn't indicate marijuana was the sole cause of the men's deaths. In the case of these two men, they already had underlying conditions that may have made them more susceptible to experiencing harm from marijuana's effects.
“Cannabis does not paralyze the breathing or the heart,” said head researcher Jost Leune to The Local, a German news outlet. Leune added that people often exaggerate the harmful effects of marijuana, and “deaths due to cannabis use are usually accidents that are not caused by the substance, but to the circumstances of use.”
So how concerned should pot-smokers be? Well, it depends. The researchers recommend that if you are at a high risk of cardiovascular disease, you should avoid pot.
The primary takeaway from this news is that, even if marijuana is legal for all in Colorado and Washington, the drug may not be safe for everybody. We'll have to see how this impacts marijuana laws in states that have already legalized or decriminalized it.