In this era of a billion dollar product industry where more and more states are legalizing marijuana use, there is a significant absence of legal precedent to provide guidance on cannabis product liability issues. In fact, there have only been a total of two cases dealing with cannabis product liability issues. The first was a 2015 Colorado class action against a cannabis grower for pesticide use. The second case was a wrongful death matter filed in Colorado against a manufacturer of cannabis-infused candy.
While each state’s laws differ, the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability provides three potential claim theories: (1) defective design; (2) manufacturing flaw; and (3) inadequate instructions or warnings.
Product liability litigation is likely to include physical injury claims arising from intoxication, as well as long-term medical effects, including addiction. We can also expect to see consumer suits alleging deceptive and improper marketing, such as campaigns targeting minors. Companies selling marijuana products for medical use could also be subject to the same sorts of claims asserted against makers of conventional prescription drugs, such as failing to warn about potential side effects.
The number of consumers and enormity of money involved in this emerging industry will inevitably create a cottage industry of marijuana lawsuits. The 2018 DRI Marijuana Law Seminar will include speakers, tips, and guidance as to where this litigation is headed. We hope that you will join us in Chicago on June 26–27, 2018, at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center for 12.5 hours of insightful CLE credits. Click here to view the brochure and to register.

Melissa K. Roeder, Of Counsel in Foley & Mansfield’s Seattle office, focuses her practice on defending asbestos matters and building a marijuana product liability defense practice. She is the DRI Northwest Regional Director and is the program chair for the DRI Marijuana Law Seminar.