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On 20 January 2004 the newspaper Daily Telegraph reported that cannabis was blamed as cause of death of a 36 year old British man. However, a review of the toxicological data and autopsy report by a Swiss expert revealed that there is no reason to assume that the sudden death of Lee Maisey in August 2003 was due to cannabis.
Mr Maisey smoked six cannabis cigarettes a day for 11 years, which was reported in some newspapers to be "excessive". He had complained of a headache on 22 August last year and was found dead at his home next morning. Michael Howells, the local coroner, who led the investigation of the death cause, said Mr Maisey was free from disease and had not drunk alcohol for at least 48 hours. "High levels of cannabinoids" had been found in his blood. The report led to new warnings about the dangers of the drug. Dr. John Henry, a professor of toxicology at Imperial College, London, said: "I have not seen anything like this before. It corrects the argument that cannabis cannot kill anybody."
The Federal Health Ministry of Switzerland asked Dr. Rudolf Brenneisen, a professor at the department for clinical research at the University of Bern, to review the data of this case. Dr. Brenneisen said that the data of the toxicological analysis and collected by autopsy were "scanty and not conclusive" and that the conclusion death by cannabis intoxication was "not legitimate".
According to the toxicological analysis of a British laboratory (Forensic Alliance) Mr Maisey's blood contained 130 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of the THC metabolite THC-COOH. THC could not be detected due to analytical problems. Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen of the nova-Institute in Cologne said: "A concentration of 130 ng/ml THC-COOH in blood is a moderate concentration, which may be observed some hours after the use of one or two joints. Heavy regular use of cannabis easily results in THC-COOH concentrations of above 500 ng/ml. Many people use much more cannabis than Mr Maisey did, without any negative consequences."
(Sources: Daily Telegraph of 20 January 2004, Neue Zuericher Zeitung of 28 January 2004, personal communications)