Marijuana Lawsuit Exposes Regulatory Gap

As we reported last week, two Colorado marijuana users filed a first of its kind lawsuit against a marijuana grower they claim used a dangerous pesticide to treat its product. The target of the suit, LivWell Inc., operates one of the largest marijuana grow houses in the world. Although legalized marijuana is a growing industry, this case a regulatory gap for the new industry. LivWell is accused of using a pesticide known as Eagle 20 on its marijuana crop. Plaintiffs allege that while Eagle 20 may be safe for use on foods, its morphs into hydrogen cyanide when heated with a standard cigarette lighter. Obviously, that might be a big problem for a crop that is usually consumed by smoking it. However, neither Plaintiff claims to have become sick or suffered any personal injury from smoking marijuana treated with Eagle 20. Rather, Plaintiff’s causes of action include breach of contract, implied warranty of merchantability, civil conspiracy, and unjust enrichment.

Nevertheless, the case shines a light on marijuana’s odd place in the regulatory arena. Colorado is one of four states that have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana.  However, safety regulations on marijuana growth are still sparse. The U.S. government still regards almost all marijuana as an illicit drug, and there are no federal safety guidelines for growing it.  Thus, regulation is left to the states who must do their own research on what chemicals are safe for use on marijuana.  Colorado’s Department of Agriculture has an approved list of marijuana pesticides that growers are supposed to follow.  However, the list doesn’t specifically ban any pesticides.

Given the infancy of the marijuana industry and the lack of research regarding pesticide use, this could be the first of many lawsuits to come.

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