Devout Christian mother-of-three, 31, becomes first woman in Britain to DIE from cannabis poisoning after smoking a joint in bed to help her sleep
Gemma Moss had moderate to high levels of the drug in her system
It is believed mother-of-three suffered a heart attack triggered by the drug
Usually, deaths associated with drug are a result of mixing it with alcohol
By Luke Salkeld
PUBLISHED: 30 January 2014
Gemma Moss from Bouremouth, Dorset, is believed to have become the first woman in Britain to die directly from cannabis poisoning
A young mother of three died after she was poisoned by the cannabis she smoked to help her get to sleep.
Gemma Moss, 31, was killed by the level of the drug in her blood, an inquest heard.
The regular churchgoer, who was found dead in her bedroom, is thought to be the first woman in Britain known to have died directly from cannabis poisoning.
Her death was caused by cannabis toxicity, and a coroner recorded a verdict of death by cannabis abuse.
The inquest was told that Miss Moss smoked half a joint a night to help her sleep.
The devout Christian had been a frequent user but stopped for two years before her death last October.
Her family say she started using the drug again to help her sleep after becoming depressed when she split up with her boyfriend.
A post mortem examination revealed that there were no obvious signs of abnormality in Miss Moss’s body. Pathologist Dr Kudair Hussein told the inquest in Bournemouth there were ‘moderate to heavy’ levels of cannabis-related chemicals in her blood.
Bournemouth coroner Mr Sheriff Payne asked Dr Hussein: ‘You are satisfied it was the effects of cannabis that caused her death?’ Dr Hussein replied: ‘Yes sir.’
In 2004 a 36-year-old man from Pembrokeshire became the first known person in the UK to die from cannabis toxicity.
A spokesman for the National Drug Prevention Alliance, David Raynes, said: ‘It is extremely rare and unusual for a coroner to rule death from cannabis abuse.
‘This case serves as a warning that cannabis can cause immense harm. Cannabis is known to increase heart rate and blood pressure. Cannabis these days is designed to be much stronger to meet demand of users who want a stronger hit.’
Tests of her vital organs found nothing wrong with them although it was suggested she might have suffered a cardiac arrest triggered by cannabis toxicity
Cannabis use can lead to significant increases in heart rate and a lowering of the blood pressure. For this reason patients with a history of angina or other cardiovascular disease could be at risk
CANNABIS: THE RISKS (AND MEDICAL BENEFITS) OF THE CONTROVERSIAL CLASS B DRUG
One minor toxic side-effect of taking cannabis is the short-term effect on the heart and vascular system.
This can lead to significant increases in heart rate and a lowering of the blood pressure. For this reason patients with a history of angina or other cardiovascular disease could be at risk.
In Britain, official government statistics listed five deaths from cannabis in the period 1993-1995, but a House of Lords Report from 1998 reports that on closer examination these proved to have been deaths due to inhalation of vomit that could not be directly attributed to cannabis.
Cannabis impairs psychomotor performance in a wide variety of tasks, and fatal accidents, such as from car crashes or from operating heavy machinery, have been recorded.
However, several studies have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.
An active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, has been available by prescription for more than a decade in the USA.
Other therapeutic uses of cannabinoids are being demonstrated by controlled studies, including treatment of asthma and glaucoma.
Her mother, Kim Furness, told the inquest her daughter struggled to sleep and had admitted that she had started smoking a ‘small amount’ of cannabis at night.
Miss Furness said: ‘It was one half of a joint to get to sleep. She never smoked in the day. She was really honest about cannabis. She was trying to stop again. She wasn’t excessively smoking.’
In recording a verdict that Miss Moss died from drug abuse, Mr Payne said: ‘Gemma had been a long-term user of cannabis.
‘She suffered from depression and was on prescription drugs to try and deal with that although it would not appear she was taking them at the time of her death.
‘She usually used it (cannabis) in the evenings to try and help her to get to sleep and did not use it in the daytime.
‘The post mortem could find no natural cause for her death with the balance of probability that it is more likely than not that she died from the effects of cannabis.’
Carolyn Stuart, a coroner’s officer, said: ‘It is very rare to have cannabis toxicity as a cause of death. She was a healthy 31-year-old woman who had nothing wrong with her.’