Nope, Still No Such Thing as a Fatal Marijuana Overdose
By all accounts, 31-year-old mother of three Gemma Moss recently smoked half a joint to help her sleep, and then she never woke up: a tragic passing that quickly yielded giddy tabloid headlines touting her as “the first woman in Britain to be poisoned to death by cannabis.”
As though some incredible sports record had just been achieved.
And really, the headlines could have gone even further, proclaiming poor Ms. Moss “the first person in recorded history to die of a marijuana overdose!” Which, given the fact that humans have been ingesting the plant in one form or another for more than 10,000 years, certainly sounds like a scoop. Especially when science had previously pegged the dose you’d need to ingest in order to suffer a fatal overdose at considerably higher than half a joint.
According to a 1988 ruling from US Drug Enforcement Agency administrative law judge Francis Young:
Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.
At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette…. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about 15 minutes to induce a lethal response.
So if the rather notably anti-marijuana DEA considers fatally overdosing on chronic nigh well impossible, and if even the world’s most rabid drug warriors can’t point to a single previous medically confirmed OD, how the heck did we end up with last week’s definitive headlines? Is it possible that Gemma Ross rolled up a 3,000-pound joint and then consumed half of it in one sitting?
These French Tombstones Make Dying Fun
Maybe it’s because we just said goodbye to another year, or maybe it’s because I spent the past two weeks gazing into the creases of my grandmother’s face as she tried to remember my name, but I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Not in the half-assed New Year’s resolution way, where I’ll con myself into thinking I’m going to live life to the fullest, while simultaneously reaching for a bag of Cheetos and watching porn. I’m thinking more about the practical side—burial arrangements.
Let’s face it: graveyards are a bummer. And I’m not talking about all the dead mommies, daddies, and babies lying underground rotting—I’m speaking from a purely aesthetic standpoint. Most cemeteries are just a sea of boring gray, crumbly stone with a bit of marble thrown in here and there. At best there might be a statue of an angel crying or a cool spikey cross to mix it up, but generally speaking they’re not an exciting visual experience.
But why shouldn’t it be? When I die, I want my final resting place to be a monument to my own inflated sense of self-worth. And while some people have the fun coffin thing on lock, I think it’s time we paid more attention to what’s going on above ground. Thankfully there’s Funeral Concept.
I Got My Personal Genome Mapped and It Was Bullshit
Last Friday, the FDA forced personal genomics company 23andMe to stop marketing its tests to the public in their current form. Before the order came in, customers would send a spit sample to the firm, who would sequence the DNA and look for genes indicating a risk of up to 254 diseases and conditions, providing a breakdown of any issues.
The FDA cited a lack of supporting evidence for some of the claims made and expressed particularly serious concern over their assessment of the BRCA gene, which is linked to breast cancer, suggesting 23andMe’s tests might result in false positives that could lead to women undergoing traumatic and unnecessary surgery. The FDA’s actions have led to an explosion of opinion across the science blogosphere, but in all of that commentary a big question remains unanswered: What exactly is the point of personal genomics?
My first experience with the industry came about three years ago, when I was offered the chance to have a test done with Navigenics, a firm since taken over by a biotech firm called Life Technologies. Being a curious sort of guy, I jumped at the chance. A sample tube arrived via Fedex a few days later, which I duly spat into and sent back for analysis.
The results came back in the form of a sort of “wall of death”—a breakdown of all the things that might harm or kill me over the coming decades, detailing how likely I am to have each condition. Drilling into the figures, I can see that I have a higher risk of prostate cancer than 95 percent of the population and a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s—twice the average risk. So I’ll probably get cancer, but on the plus side I’ll be too forgetful to care about it.
Volunteer-Run Morgues Are a Terrible Idea
Australia’s Northern Territory is huge, sparsely populated, poor, and crawling with deadly animals. It’s not surprising, then, that it doesn’t attract many professional types. Types like, say, people who are good at managing morgues. As a result, the territory’s dead-body storage system is a mess. The morgues are staffed primarily by volunteers, and no agency is specifically in charge of them.
This is a problem, to put it mildly. An inquiry led last year by Northern Territory Ombudsman Carolyn Richards uncovered a host of horrible practices, like a body that got put in a courtroom when there wasn’t space for it elsewhere, and a corpse stored in a doctor’s kitchen for a week while he was away. Things haven’t gotten better since then, and in the past few months, the bodies of two Aborigines were placed in the wrong graves—an especially big deal because in that culture, being buried with your clan on tribal land is of the utmost importance. The bodies were reportedly exhumed and reburied, but the families never received an official apology.
Also still waiting on a “We’re sorry” from the well-meaning but undertrained—or incompetent—morgue workers is the family of Charlton James, who committed suicide in 2011. Charlton’s body was taken to a morgue in the town of Kalkaringi, but after a power failure, the refrigeration system went down and his corpse was left to rot in the Outback heat. By the time his mother went to view the body, it was so badly decomposed that she couldn’t recognize him.
Your Corpse Will Never Look This Good
Contemporary burial practices suck. They put a suit or dress on you, throw you in a box, and stick you in the ground, doomed to an eternity of looking boring. It wasn’t always like that, and art history scholar Dr. Paul Koudounaris’s photos of skeletons covered in bling prove it. You might remember some of his photos from 2011’s The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses. Now, Koudounaris has a follow-up book called Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, which also features bedazzled dead people. But according to the author, that’s where the similarities end. “They are very different—almost diametric—projects,” he says. “Because it deals with identity, Heavenly Bodies is in effect much more intimate.”
Koudounaris started documenting skeletons in earnest less than five years ago while photographing East German charnel houses, aka vaults full of dead bodies. “These skeletons became my life,” he says. “I felt like it was some kind of divine dictate that I was supposed to tell this story.”
While there had been articles about the skeletons in academic journals (mostly in Germany, where many of the bones are located), as well as a few doctoral dissertations, nobody had ever treated them as works of art. “They approached them as historical objects or devotional objects, but that, I think, is missing the point,” Koudounaris says. “To a modern audience that’s going to appreciate them, it’s because they’re incredible works of art, and that’s the context I wanted to create for them.”
We’re All Going to Be Killed by Giant Hornets
I don’t want to scare you or anything, but I know how you’re going to die. You’re going to be stung to death by giant hornets. We all are, and it’s going to be excruciating. In a plot twist straight from a SyFy Channel mockbuster, we all laughed at Mother Nature for too long, and now she’s coming after us in the form of huge, horrifying, toxic insects. I know, because I read a lot of internet news.
A Chinese woman named Mu Conghui told Xinhua News Agency:
"The hornets were horrifying.They hit right at my head and covered my legs. All of a sudden I was stung and I couldn’t move. Even now, my legs are covered with sting holes."
People Are Now Crowdfunding Their Funerals Online
The new frontier for online fundraising arguably has the single steadiest revenue source in the world: Funerals.
It would cost about $10,000 to bury your dead ass right now. I’m talking to you, 18- to 35-year-olds. With VICE’s readership being what it is (it’s been a good year), someone reading this will drop dead pretty soon, statistically speaking. If you die penniless, your family could and should consider going the crowdfunding route on Giveforward
, or Graceful Goodbye
That $10,000 is just an average figure for a simple American funeral
. It assumes you’ll be embalmed, rested in a lined casket, placed in a room for people to visit, grieved over at a modest ceremony at a funeral home, driven to the cemetery in a hearse, lowered into the ground, buried, and have a few flowers placed next to your humble, flat headstone. Funeral directors get $6,600 of that, and the rest goes to the cemetery.
Apocalyptic Christians Are Boring
When I started reading Endtime, I thought getting a magazine devoted to the end of the world every two months would be fascinating—I’d get loads of insane theories, wacky photoshop jobs, and far-out interpretations of news stories from the Middle East. I was right about the photoshopping (get a load of that cover!), but wrong about everything else. As I learned from previous issues of this publication, publisher/editor/company founder Irvin Baxter believes that there is a war coming that will wipe out a third of humanity; that a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine will result in animals being sacrificed on the Temple Mount for the first time in 2,000 years; that a global government, led by the Antichrist, will emerge and persecute Christians and Israel before a big, end-of-the-world fight between good and evil. These are fairly nutty things to believe, but as it turns out, hearing about them makes for pretty mind-numbing reading.
After the letters to the editor section—where Irvin answers questions such as, “Is a third of the world population really going to die in that big war?” (yes) and “Is there really going to be a river of blood five feet deep at the Battle of Armageddon?” (yes, but it won’t be that deep all the way from the Plain of Megiddo to Jerusalem)—the July/August issue of Endtime features a long, somewhat meandering story on the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations organized by US Secretary of State John Kerry that concludes casually by saying that there will some day be peace in Israel because the Bible says so, “but probably not now. The Sixth Trumpet War that will kill one-third of the human race will probably happen first.” Oh, that clears that up then, I guess.