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Is it Possible to Overdose on Marijuana?

The rapid adoption across the United States for legalized medical marijuana has partly been made possible by the collapsing arguments of anti-marijuana groups who can’t seem to get the science right. One of their biggest arguments against legalization has been that it will increase crime, yet the crime rate has gone down in several states since its legalization. Even usage among teens has dropped in Colorado since it became legal. The question of whether or not an individual can overdose on marijuana is another red herring in the resistance to legalization, since there is plenty of evidence to suggest that ingestion itself of the plant in any form does not cause death.

Evidence that Marijuana Overdose Isn’t Likely

The term “overdose” implies ingesting a larger dose than what is recommended by a doctor. But one of the voids in research about medical marijuana is that there haven’t been many doctors willing to put their credibility on the line yet to recommend specific amounts for specific ailments. In other words, unlike conventional pharma drugs, there haven’t been standards or recommendations set by the medical industry to suggest what proper dosage is for cannabis. So, without established proper dosages, it’s hard to define a “marijuana overdose”.

On the National Institute of Drug Abuse website section called “National Drug Facts Week” a Q&A webpage about marijuana asks the question if someone can overdose on the drug. The answer is: no, it’s not very likely.” The response adds, however, that people can injure themselves while driving due to marijuana’s effect on judgement, perception and coordination. These effects, however, cannot be considered the same categorization as an overdose.

An actual study published by American Scientist in 2009 reported that a marijuana user would have to consume”1,000 times the effective dosage” to pose a risk of death. It is more likely that a person that smoked even twice the effective dosage would fall asleep first.  

Near Zero Death Toll

As of 2014, very few deaths have been linked directly to marijuana use. In February 2014, for example, a German researcher named Dr. Benno Hartung reported that two deaths in a study at Duesseldorf and Frankfurt’s university hospital might have been linked to cannabis. He also said, however, that one of the individuals had an existing underlying heart problem and the other individual had a history of alcohol, cocaine and amphetamine use. Dr. Hartung warned patients with heart problems should avoid cannabis. 

The short list of marijuana deaths that appear to be related to other factors is dwarfed by the long list of other drugs that do cause death when misused. On the list of annual causes of death in the United States published by, total marijuana deaths for 2010 were zero. Meanwhile, the number of “drug-induced deaths” was over 40,000 while “alcohol-induced deaths” were over 25,000. The total number of drug overdoses was over 38,000 and pharmaceutical drug deaths were over 22,000. Obviously, marijuana is a low toxicity drug compared to what has been available in households legally for decades, debunking yet another poorly researched scare tactic about why cannabis should remain illegal. 

Marijuana Overdose Hoax 

Some people, including an Annapolis, Maryland police chief, were fooled by a phony satirical news story published by The Daily Currant that bore the headline: “Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado On First Day of Legalization“. The article was published on January 2, 2014; the day after Colorado’s new law went into effect that legalized recreational pot. A major clue that the article was a hoax was that it cited the Rocky Mountain News, a defunct newspaper. 

Source: Medical Marijuana Association

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