In recent news, Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana use, and predictions have been made that another 14 states will follow within the next five years. However what will this mean?
As legal marijuana becomes one of the fastest growing markets, lawsuits are likely to act in a positive correlation in a number of different shapes. Manufactures of legal marijuana will indefinitely face numerous product liability cases, even if they are following similar regulations as say, alcohol companies.
For example, a failure to warn consumers about the possible effects on personal and mental health, and also the possibilities of addiction sufficiently could result in a claim. If warnings are not specific enough, such as descriptions like “may cause” certain problems, they may not be perceived as sufficient. Consumers therefore would be able to claim that they were not fully aware about the consequences of smoking marijuana if they were to become ill or addicted. Also because studies differ over whether marijuana does actually cause health problems or not, it would be hard for distributors to know exactly what warnings they should be giving out. Consumers may then argue it was their duty to conduct research that told them the exact effects before selling the product.
Another issue that could occur is design defects. If THC levels are being increased or decreased this could impact upon addiction and potential health issues. For example, cannabidiol found in marijuana has been reported to stop cancer forming. This means that if someone consumes marijuana with low levels of cannabidiol and forms cancer, they may blame the manufacturers of their product. Alternatively, enhanced levels of THC could lead to greater addiction, and again the manufacturers could be held at fault.
Consumers may also make warranty claims, because they believe their product to be ‘medicinal.’ As a result, they may file a lawsuit because they do not believe they have had any medical benefits, and therefore the warranty has been breached.
Youth marketing would be another channel for consumers to take in order to claim. Although age restrictions would be implemented and marketing to appeal to children banned, if anyone under the age of 18 becomes addicted, or people claim they were enticed by the adverts for marijuana, they could take distributors to court.
Unlike alcohol and smoking and gambling, product liability cases will be much easier to claim, even if the risks are the same – for example, addiction and damaged health. The problem is that the legalisation for marijuana has make it illegal for centuries, therefore the attitude towards it is extremely mixed. Ultimately, blame of this product will be a lot easier and less controversial than if someone underage was trying to claim that adverts led them to become addicted to alcohol etc.
What are your thoughts?