Exploring Product Liability in the Cannabis Industry

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Legalized cannabis is an evolving field and the way product liability statutes apply to the industry is of growing concern. Fortunately, whether it’s a defective pen that explodes or a bad batch of bud, consumers do have protections and the ability to pursue product liability lawsuits.

Cannabis Concerns

Cannabis contains THC which has been shown to cause significant impairment of mental faculties. In potent concentrations, it has caused temporary psychosis that has led to suicides, homicides, and other serious crimes. The manufacturing process can also introduce allergens and other contaminants into the product. These can cause serious health problems when ingested by consumers. Cannabis may also cause irreparable damage to the respiratory or reproductive system which leads to an overall diminished quality of life for the consumer. There are also concerns with vaporizers, pens, and other devices that may explode or catch fire due to defective lithium-ion batteries.

Statues and Rules

The cannabis industry is an emerging market that is governed by a strong and complex network of rules and regulations. As complex as they can be, federal, state, and local regulations must be adhered to and businesses can’t hide behind the “we didn’t know” defense. In fact, companies involved in the cannabis industry are required to adhere to all applicable regulations otherwise they can lose their insurance, license, and ability to operate.

In some respects, regulators are looking at the regulations applied to the nutritional supplement industry as they craft new regulations and guidelines to cover cannabis producers, distributors, and retail outlets. These rules include strict guidelines on what must be included in the label and how products are required to be stored, handled, and packaged. Enterprises that violate these standards are thus liable for personal injuries and harm their negligence creates.

Cannabis Tracking Systems

Cannabis tracking systems are under development that establish a complete record of a marijuana plant’s path from field to consumer. These records include where the product was grown, who cultivated and processed it, who supplied it, etc. Known as seed-to-sale tracking, these systems protect consumers by making it possible for distributors and sales outlets to track the source of problems and quickly remove product from the shelves. However, these systems vary considerably and there is no unified standard that all systems must follow in regard to the information they are required to contain.