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Cannabis Candy Maker Faces First Pot Wrongful Death Suit

Last month, the first ever wrongful death lawsuit was filed against a maker of marijuana edibles, blaming a cannabis candy for a husband's shooting of his wife. The claim is being called a long shot by legal experts, reports the Los Angeles Times. But it is also indicative of what is likely to come as marijuana transitions from an illegal drug to legitimacy. Let's consider it.

Freaking Out

In April, 2014 police in Denver, Colorado received a call from Kristine Kirk, whose husband was reportedly freaking out about the apocalypse and begging her to shoot him. He had a loaded gun and was waving the weapon around his three children.

The 911 call was interrupted by a shot. Kristine Kirk was killed by her husband in front of the kids. Richard Kirk was charged with first-degree murder. He is now pleading not guilty based on insanity.

Shifting Blame

The Kirk children also believe that dad is not guilty. They filed a wrongful death lawsuit against cannabis edibles maker Gaia's Garden LLC, and its distributor, Nutritional Elements Inc., both of Denver, blaming the manufacturer's Karma Kandy Orange Ginger -- described as a Tootsie-Roll-like chew -- for triggering the shooting.

The claim is that Gaia's Garden failed to warn customers that edibles could lead to paranoia, psychosis, and hallucinations. The Kirks allege that the cannabis candy company's packaging and labels are inadequate. In their lawsuit, filed in Denver District Court in May, the plaintiffs write:

The packaging and labeling for the potent candy contained no directions, instructions or recommendations respecting the product's proper consumption or use. The edible producers negligently, recklessly and purposefully concealed vital dosage and labeling information from their actual and prospective purchasers including Kirk in order to make a profit.

Expert Analysis

Those in the know say suits like this are to be expected as the role of cannabis in the culture shifts. "This is all a part of marijuana moving out of the shadows," Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver who specializes in marijuana law and policy, told the LA Times.

"It's growing pains," he explained. "When you are a street drug dealer you don't have to worry about product liability or paying taxes, but when you have a product brand and consumers it's very different." Still, Kamin believes this case is not likely to succeed.

Defense Response

As for the cannabis candy company, it calls the case as meritless. Sean McAllister, who co-wrote the amendment legalizing recreational pot in Colorado, represents Gaia's Garden and says, "This company was complying with all state labeling requirements ... so the proposition that someone didn't know marijuana could impair them is preposterous ... Our position is that marijuana doesn't cause violence; the person with the mental illness caused the violence."

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