The marijuana industry is booming. It is expanding into new states while it grows beyond the medical marijuana market into the recreational world. What was once illicit profit is quickly becoming on-the-books gains. As the industry matures, billions will be made, and companies once viewed suspiciously will become market giants. But this growth will not be without consequences. As marijuana use grows, and those who profit from it become established companies, the marijuana industry will become a target for tort claims that other industries have faced for decades. These claims, ranging from product liability claims to vehicular injury to consumer class actions, will expose actors in the industry to potentially ruinous damages. This is particularly true if the industry remains, as it is now, only partially prepared. Particularly dangerous will be third-party claims (claims filed by people who did not purchase marijuana themselves). In those claims, the illegal status of marijuana in federal law could make establishing liability against manufacturers, wholesalers, and sellers easier than it is for other products. This Article chronicles the most likely claims to emerge en masse in courts and puts forth potential, viable industry responses.
Campbell, John, Budding Torts: Forecasting Emerging Tort Liabilty in the Cannabis Industry (May 9, 2018). Loyola Consumer Law Review, forthcoming; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No 18-17.