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Cannabis use played a part in man's death

Drug habit, triggered by dementia, led to lung disease, inquest is told

John Garvey

john.garvey@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886628

Cannabis use played a part in man's death

A ONCE “vibrant, active” man died from a rare lung condition after his dementia triggered an obsessive cannabis habit. 

In just five years, 56-year-old Christopher Webb went from a busy, self-employed gardener with a healthy lifestyle to being unable to work, instead smoking more than 50 ‘joints’ a day.

In June, 2013, the Newbury Weekly News reported how Mr Webb and his partner Zoe Wilson won a battle with planners for permission to live on the land they farmed at Lambourn Woodlands.

The pair lived a low-carbon lifestyle in a double-decker bus, selling ethically- reared produce. 

District council planners had opposed granting permission but HM Planning Inspectorate sided with public opinion, citing the “clear and considerable measure of local support” for the initiative.

However, as an inquest in Reading Town Hall heard on Wednesday, August 29, a rare condition known as frontotemporal dementia was soon to rob Mr Webb of everything.

Ms Wilson told the hearing how, on April 19, she returned to find that Mr Webb had died on a couch in their home.

In an emotional speech, she pleaded with the coroner not to view Mr Webb, a father of two and her partner of 36 years, as “just another statistic or drug addict”.

She said: “Five years ago he was a vibrant, active man with an extremely active lifestyle, cooking daily from scratch...he regularly took the dogs for long walks; he was never lazy... he did all the cleaning and sawed wood every morning during winter.”

Only after a full day’s work, said Ms Wilson, would he “sit down and smoke one or two joints, much as someone would have a glass of wine”.

She added: “He was an honest, conscientious, reliable and extremely hard-working individual, well liked and respected by the community – a good father.”

But as the disease took hold, Mr Webb became confused, eventually losing his gardening customers and becoming obsessed with his own death.

The illness can trigger compulsive substance abuse and towards the end of his life, the inquest heard, Mr Webb had spent £15,000 savings on a 50-joint-per-day cannabis habit.

Ms Wilson said she believed that her partner was also self-medicating the anguish he felt at losing his faculties.

A pathologist’s report revealed he had died from diffuse alveolar hemorrhage, most likely brought on by excessive cannabis smoking. 

Ms Wilson told the coroner that while cannabis abuse may have triggered the fatal lung condition, she believed the real cause of death was “the cruel, God-forsaken disease dementia” which had wrought such a change in Mr Webb’s behaviour.

Senior Berkshire coroner Heidi Connor paid tribute to Ms Wilson for her “dignified” address to the inquest and, in a narrative verdict, described Mr Webb as an “amazing man” who fell victim to dementia.

“His death was caused by a lung condition caused, or contributed to, by cannabis use,” she said.

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