Supporters of legalizing weed have long made the relative safety of cannabis one of their flagship arguments. And indeed, based on the limited research we have about marijuana, weed is much safer than other substances, especially compared to other legal goods like tobacco and alcohol. Death from causes linked to alcohol and tobacco claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. The verified death toll from cannabis? Zero. There’s no known lethal dose of cannabis. But despite all that, one family says weed ended up killing their 22-year-old son.
Parents Say Weed “Ended Up Killing” Their 22-Year-Old Son
As she went to say goodnight to her son, Michael, Kristina Ziobro recalls finding him on his bedroom floor, unconscious. She rushed to call 911, but paramedics were unable to revive Michael. He had passed away.
Later that night, the Ziobros discovered two packages of medical cannabis in Michael’s room. After medical examiners found cannabinoids in Michael’s blood, his parents came to the conclusion that weed ended up killing their 22-year-old son.
The law requires medical cannabis dispensaries to label the cannabinoid content of the products they sell. These labels let patients know the potency of their weed.
His parents think the potency of the weed caused their son’s heart to go into arrhythmia, killing him.
Medical Examiners Unable To Say If Cannabis Was Cause of Death
Even so, a number of studies have identified promising therapeutic and medicinal qualities of cannabis. And of course, thousands of people have said they’ve found success self-medicating with marijuana.
But there is also a body of research that highlights the dangers of cannabis use, especially for young adults and teenagers. At just 22 years old, Michael Ziobros may have been especially at risk.
But the medical examiner who found THC in Michael’s blood, Dr. Junaid Shaikh, told Today that he was unable to determine for sure whether or not cannabis killed the young man. In his report, the examiner noted that there just isn’t enough information about the effects of cannabis on the heart.
Importantly, one recent study does point to higher cardiovascular risks for cannabis users. According to Barbara Yankey and her team at Georgia State University, people who used cannabis had a threefold higher risk of dying from high blood pressure.
Final Hit: Parents Say Weed Ended Up Killing Their 22-Year-Old Son
Despite the inconclusive evidence, the Ziobros remain convinced their son died due to smoking extremely potent cannabis.
As such, they are unsatisfied with the explanation by the Union County Medical Examiner.
However, Dr. Shaikh did recommend in a letter to New Jersey state senator Thomas Kean that the Ziobros consider cardiovascular genetic testing to rule out possible hereditary causes for the arrhythmia that killed their son.
The Ziobros plan to follow that advice. But the Ziobros also hope that their tragic story will encourage others to take a closer look at the risks of using cannabis.
They knew their son used marijuana to treat his irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. And like him, they believed it was safe. “He just thought it was natural and organic and it ended up killing him,” said Kristina Ziobro.