Legal Marijuana Industry Could Face Its First Wrongful Death Lawsuit

By May Wilkerson 05/16/16

The lack of warning labels on edible marijuana is the issue at the forefront of the wrongful death lawsuit. 

Legal Marijuana Industry Could Face Its First Wrongful Death Lawsuit

It's been 80 years since the anti-marijuana propaganda film Reefer Madness was released, but in 2016, the question 'Could marijuana make someone a murderer?' has resurfaced as the budding pot industry stretches its legs across the U.S.

The billion-dollar legal marijuana industry is now facing its first wrongful death lawsuit. Two marijuana businesses are being sued by the sons of a woman who was fatally shot by her husband after he ate edible marijuana candy and began hallucinating.

Kristine Kirk was killed in 2014, in Denver, Colo., two years after the state legalized marijuana for adult recreational use. The lawsuit, which was filed on the behalf of Kirk’s three sons, who are now 9, 13, and 15 years old, claims the marijuana edible should have carried a warning label with dosage instructions and a warning about possible side effects, like hallucination, paranoia and psychosis. 

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman explained that Kristine’s husband, Richard Kirk, may have unknowingly consumed dangerous amounts of THC, the active compound in marijuana, which led to his erratic and violent behavior. "Edible marijuana is coming upon you slower and slower so you take something the size of a Tootsie Roll—which he did—you take a bite, you don't get high, so you keep eating and you were supposed to only have that one little bite," she said.

The attorney for the store that sold Kirk the candy told CBS that it is a “lawfully-operated business that complies with required labels." Under state regulations, pot businesses in Colorado must restrict edibles to a serving size of 10-milligrams of THC or less, use child-resistant packaging and include warning labels about possible side effects. But these regulations were not put in place until 2015, a year after Kirk’s death.

Klieman predicted the case will go forward, but could not say whether it would go to a jury trial. She said that the marijuana companies will likely argue that the marijuana industry should be protected from blame, as is the case with alcohol sellers, and will intend to show that Kirk intentionally killed his wife. 

Explaining the industry’s likely defense, Klieman said: "This is a bad guy who committed a homicide and that defense goes along with a criminal prosecution because the criminal prosecution of Mr. Kirk is that there may have been marital problems or financial difficulties and this is intention, this is not about negligence.”

Rikki Klieman discusses the case in the video below:

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.