The Staten Island Advance recently reported that Emergency Room visits as a result of synthetic marijuana have gone up 220% in 2014 as a result of use of the drug. This rise has occurred despite the fact that use and sale of the drug has been outlawed at both the state and federal level since 2012 and is in part due to the fact that the drug can be easily purchased online and even in some convenience stores. The question here is whether any legal action can be taken against its retailers and distributers located in the United States.
The drug, known by street names such as K2, Spice, Green Giant, Geeked Up, Caution, Smacked, Wicked X, AK-47, and "legal marijuana", is often sold in a small bag as incense with warnings against human consumption.
These warnings are for good reason, synthetic marijuana is known to be habit forming and its consumption can result in adverse effects such as: severe agitation and anxiety, increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, seizures, intense hallucinations, psychotic episodes, and suicide along with other harmful thoughts and/or actions. " American Association of Poison Control Centers "
So far, the result of the availability of the drug in otherwise legitimate stores has resulted in a small number of reported lawsuits against its distributers and retailers. An example is a suit filed in February of this year, which alleged that a British Petroleum gas station in Georgia, a state that has outlawed some strains of the drug, sold the product to a minor who ended up dying as a result.
However, with warnings on the packaging, and a relative dearth of science on the precise effects of the drug, lawsuits, like the one just mentioned, are going to be difficult. Indeed, a jury recently found against a plaintiff who was alleging that the use of synthetic marijuana sold at a Mobil gas station in Michigan caused the suicide of a teen. The defendant successfully argued that the suicide was unrelated to the use of the drug.
As a result, at the moment, it's difficult to definitively say whether a lawsuit is a viable option for somebody who dies or is seriously injured as a result of use of the drug, even if its purchased from an otherwise legitimate storefront. One loss on a claim does not necessarily rule out success on future claims, but it's a reminder that in new areas of law establishing a claim can face many hurdles.
In instances such as this, where the law is unclear, the best thing to do is speak with an attorney who can look at the unique facts of any given case and determine if there may be a route to a successful lawsuit. Our attorneys have experiencing building plaintiff-friendly precedent so if you or someone you love has been seriously injured or died as a result of using synthetic marijuana, please contact our office