Marijuana Product Liability Certain to be on Horizon in Carolinas

Earlier this year, South Carolina lawmakers rejected the South Carolina Medical Marijuana Program Act, which would have granted access to caregivers and patients suffering from serious illnesses. Meanwhile in North Carolina, House Bill 983 is pending that would allow marijuana as medicine. Given the growing tide of approval for medical marijuana in the U.S., it’s ultimate approval in the Carolinas seems inevitable, as legal marijuana is one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S. joint

One of the benefits of legalized marijuana is accountability for those who cultivate, process and distribute the drug. Reasonable regulations help patients and customers understand what they are getting and ensure that those who fail to ensure their products are safe properly compensate those who are affected.

Take for example the recent lawsuit filed against Colorado’s largest cannabis cultivator by two consumers over the use of pesticides. As The Denver Post reports, the plaintiffs – one who uses the drug for treatment of brain tumor symptoms – allege defendant LivWell Inc. have been using a dangerous chemical called Eagle 20 to kill pests, but in turn have been endangering users who became sick when they inhaled the drug. They assert that the fungicide, when it’s heated to smoke, produces a dangerous gas about which users were not warned. The consumers are seeking class action status for their product liability claim. 

This is likely just the beginning of what will be many product liability lawsuits against marijuana companies as the emerging industry gains its footing and regulators determine the appropriate framework for standards and oversight.

Here are some examples of the product liability claims that could emerge as the industry expands:

  • Breach of contract. These are cases in which a plaintiff alleges entry into a sales contract for the purchase of a product and that it was understood the product (in this case, marijuana) was safe to be consumed. A breach of contract occurs if the cultivator, producer or supplier did not disclose certain things about the drug (i.e., the application of pesticides).
  • Breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. These claims assert that the defendant did not engage in good faith in the manufacture or sale of the product.
  • Failure to warn. These claims assert the manufacturer or distributor had a legal obligation to warn of certain dangers, and they failed to warn of those dangers. That could mean specific health risk, propensity to cause addiction, warnings not to drive after consuming, indications not to combine with other certain substances, etc.
  • Defective design. This would be particularly relevant in cases where the product was enhanced or altered, such as THC contained in baked goods or other edible products.
  • Intentional misrepresentation or concealment of material facts. Such a claim could be asserted if defendant purported the marijuana was of a higher quality or lesser potency than it actually was. It could also involve concealment of the types of chemicals or processes used to grow or process the plant.
  • Unjust enrichment. This could be claimed if a defendant obtained money from consumers under unfair or immoral or unjust.

These are just a sample of the kinds of claims that are likely to arise. With the marijuana industry growing at a clip that is outpacing the regulatory laws, it’s likely we will see some contentious legal battles surrounding this drug in the near future, both in North Carolina and South Carolina and beyond.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Colorado’s largest pot grower sued by two consumers over pesticide use, Oct. 5, 2015, By David Migoya, Denver Post

More Blog Entries:

How Much Marijuana is Too Much for Drivers? June 23, 2016, Charlotte Product Liability Lawyer Blog

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