Now that 30 states (including Illinois) have legalized marijuana for medical use and nine also allow recreational use, the number of personal injury lawsuits
involving cannabis is growing.
Background on the Cannabis Market
Over 100 distinct chemicals, broadly termed phytocannabinoids, are present naturally in the cannabis plant. Currently, two of the best-understood cannabinoids are THC, the psychoactive ingredient that produces a euphoric sensation, and CBD (cannabidiol), which has demonstrated pain-relieving, inflammation-reducing, neuro-protective
, and cancer-fighting properties.
As scientists learn more about the way cannabinoids affect the human body and discover new applications for these chemicals, the variety of products made from cannabis is increasing. In fact, the U.S. market for legal cannabis is expected to grow 17% per year through 2028, reaching nearly $50 billion in annual sales. In comparison, U.S. wine sales are estimated at $65 billion.
With such rapid growth, mistakes are bound to be made, and injuries are likely to result.
Potential Grounds for Cannabis Personal Injury Lawsuits
Here are a few situations that could be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against a marijuana producer/distributor:
- Failure to warn of risks. If a cannabis product has the potential to impair a consumer’s ability to drive, or if it could affect a person’s thoughts or behavior in other ways that could prove dangerous, the packaging should provide appropriate warnings. If such warnings are not provided, and someone suffers an injury as a result, the producer/distributor could be sued for negligence and required to pay compensation to the victim.
- Misleading or false advertising. If a producer says (in advertising, on packaging, or otherwise) that their product will provide a particular benefit, and the product fails to perform as promised, a consumer could file a lawsuit on the grounds of breach of contract or breach of warranty.
- Product contamination. Many states do not yet have laws regulating the use of pesticides, fungicides, and other chemicals on marijuana crops, nor adequate procedures to enforce such regulations or test for toxins. Many lawsuits have resulted from contaminated consumables in other industries (e.g., E. coli in ground beef), and there have already been lawsuits against marijuana producers alleging harmful contamination.
- Unsafe packaging. Marijuana products containing THC should be provided in packaging that is both child-resistant and tamper-evident, just as is required for other medicinal products that have a potential to cause harm. Portion sizes and the amount of THC per portion should also be made very clear on product labels. Defective packaging and foreseeable misuse could become grounds for a lawsuit.
While the probability of a fatal overdose is near zero, marijuana is an intoxicant, and overconsumption can have serious consequences. Because of the potential for personal injury lawsuits, many states are requiring marijuana businesses to purchase liability insurance, so that funds will be available to compensate consumers for injuries caused by cannabis products.
An Arlington Heights Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medical cannabis product, consult an experienced Palatine personal injury attorney
to discuss the details of your case and possible options for recovering compensation. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC provide skilled representation, working to protect your rights when you have been harmed by an unsafe product. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a consultation.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.