Deceptive Cannabis Packaging & Accidental Marijuana Ingestion
With the growing market of recreational marijuana products across the country, more and more cases of accidental marijuana overdoses have been reported. Some misleading labeling and deceptive cannabis packaging may be to blame. Many marijuana injury claims involve children and underage consumers who pick up what they think is chocolate or gummy bears and accidentally ingest a large amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
For years, there have been reports of children mistaking marijuana edibles for candy. These incidents have led to industry scrutiny and labeling requirements. Yet the market is still full of colorful packaging that adolescents may not recognize as potentially dangerous. Many cannabis companies and producers of edibles have been targeted in lawsuits, claiming their marketing and labeling (1) does not have proper warnings, and (2) looks exactly like bags of normal candy, a very attractive item for many children.
Following cases of serious illness and trips to the emergency room, children and some adults who mistake marijuana edibles for candy may experience long-term psychological disturbances and distress. Ingesting large amounts of a psychoactive drug may lead to psychosis that can be temporary or may cause long-term damage to the psyche.
Physicians and researchers have noted that cannabis toxicity may directly cause decreased executive function, impaired memory, severe anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, delirium or psychosis. A cannabis overdose is not likely to kill a child, but it can cause significant mental disability.
Joe Lyon is a product liability and personal injury lawyer, reviewing deceptive marketing cases and misleading labeling claims. Contact The Lyon Firm with any questions or reports of unsafe cannabis packaging.
Deceptive Cannabis Packaging
Consumer safety advocates have been urging regulators to push proper cannabis labeling and packaging, which can drastically reduce the number of accidental marijuana edible overdoses each year. But since laws different from state to state, and the industry is struggling to play catch-up, misleading labels are still common in the industry.
By law, cannabis companies need to ensure that their edible packaging is child-proof, and has proper warnings printed on the labels. But with laws changing so quickly, companies do not always remain in compliance and fail to properly protect the general public.
The primary issue with marijuana edible packaging is that they are not always clearly distinguishable from gummies or regular candy products. At first glance, young children, or even adults may mistake the edibles for candy, gummies or chocolates.
Marijuana candies are often made to look very similar to popular brand name products, which in turn increases the risk of kids accidentally ingesting large amounts and overdosing on marijuana products. Even a small amount of THC can have severe effects on children. Studies have shown an association between marijuana use and psychosis, including schizophrenia, paranoia and hallucinations.
In a high-profile case in 2014, a 19-year-old college student died after eating a cannabis cookie purchased from a recreational marijuana shop in Colorado. Witnesses told police he ate a marijuana cookie, began acting oddly and jumped from a hotel balcony.
Accidental Marijuana Ingestion
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics reviewed a number of unintentional exposures to marijuana and concluded that the existing packaging regulations are not enough to prevent children from accidentally ingesting marijuana edibles. Cannabis toxicity cases have increased in frequency in almost every place in the country that recently legalized marijuana edibles.
Since legalization, emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to extreme reactions from cannabis edibles have more than doubled in Colorado, for example. In turn, some attorneys have called much of the existing cannabis packaging “highly deceptive.”
States now mandate warnings on edible packaging, often in capitalized text, but the problem is not every ten-year-old kid is going to stop to read the fine print on a bag of what they think is candy.
The warnings are often not explicit enough, especially when the packaging is colorful and made to look like something a child would enjoy. Some states also require child-proof packaging in compliance with the federal Poison Prevention Packaging Act, but again, nothing an 8-12 year old can’t easily open.
Edibles & Improper Cannabis Labeling
State regulators have been cracking down on advertising content aimed at children, with some states prohibiting cartoonish graphics or the use of color. Nevada, for example, has banned product labeling resembling lollipops, ice cream, animals, fruits and cartoons.
Is this enough to prevent accidental cannabis edible ingestion? We know accidental marijuana overdoses are occurring despite packaging regulation. Companies have a duty to protect children and other consumers to the best of their ability. If a company uses deceptive marijuana packaging, they may face a class action failure to warn claim or deceptive marketing lawsuit.
The Lyon Firm is currently investigating misleading labeling and deceptive cannabis packaging and reviewing accidental marijuana ingestion cases on behalf of plaintiffs nationwide. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or psychotic episode following an accidental marijuana overdose, contact Joe Lyon for a free consultation.