June 07, 2019
A Louisiana cororner believes he recorded the first death caused by THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. But other medical experts aren't so sure.
Dr. Christy Montegut, the coroner of St. John the Baptist Parish, ruled that a 39-year-old LaPlace woman died in February of excessive amounts of THC.
"It looked like it was all THC because her autopsy showed no physical disease or afflictions that were the cause of death," Montegut told the New Orleans Advocate. "There was nothing else identified in the toxicology – no other drugs, no alcohol. There was nothing else."
The toxicology report said the woman had 8.4 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Montegut said the woman, who was not identified, likely vaped highly concentrated THC oil and went into respiratory failure.
But others are skeptical of Montegut's ruling.
Keith Humphreys, a former senior policy adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told the newpaper that if THC could kill someone, plenty of overdose deaths would have already been recorded.
Dr. Noah Kaufman, an emergency room doctor in Colorado, said THC should not impact a person's breathing based on the way it enters the body.
"However, it can cause extreme anxiety," Kaufman told New Orlean's CBS affiliate. "It can cause heart palpitations and an increase in your heart rate."
Kaufman said it is possible that other drugs were not picked up by the toxicology report or that other factors caused her death.
A police report noted the woman allegedly visited the emergency room with a chest infection three weeks before she died, according to the CBS affiliate.
"Everything looked above the board and the only thing they found was the THC in the blood and so they made an association," Kaufman said.