Beware: Marijuana Businesses Targeted With Product Labeling Violation Letters

by Seyfarth Shaw LLP
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Seyfarth SynopsisMarijuana businesses must properly label their products if they contain chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive health problems.  Failure to do so will result in a civil penalty or civil lawsuit.

Entrepreneurial Plaintiff’s attorneys have now set their sites on marijuana businesses.  Since January 1, 2017, Plaintiff’s firms have issued approximately 800 violation notice letters to marijuana businesses alleging that producers of cannabis infused edibles and vape cartridge manufacturers failed to warn consumers about specific fungicides and pesticides associated with their products.

California’s Proposition 65, or the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires cannabis business owners to provide customers with warning of the chemicals contained in their products which can cause cancer, birth defects, and other health problems.  Among the substances “known to the state of California” to cause cancer, birth defects and other health problems are marijuana smoke itself, and the chemicals myclobutanil (also a fungicide), carbaryl, and malathion, commonly-used pesticides.

Failure to comply with the warning requirement can result in a civil penalty up to $2,500 per violation per day in addition to other penalties established by law. The Attorney General may bring an action in the name of the people or the Act allows individuals to bring a private action to obtain the civil penalty against marijuana businesses for failure to warn.

Before filing a lawsuit, the individual seeking a private action must provide a 60-day notice to the Attorney General and the district attorney, city attorney, or prosecutor in whose jurisdiction the violation is alleged to have occurred, and to the alleged violator.  If, after 60 days, none of the referenced individuals/entities take action, then the individual may proceed with his or her private claim so long as he or she complies with the 60-day notice requirements.

In order for the 60-day notice to be compliant, the notice must include a copy of Prop 65, a description of the violation, the name of the individual seeking an action, the time period of the violation, the listed chemicals involved, the route of exposure (ingestion, dermal contact or inhalation), and a certificate of merit.  The individual bringing the action must certify that they have “consulted with one or more persons with relevant and appropriate experience or expertise who has reviewed facts, studies, or other data regarding the exposure to the listed chemical that is the subject of the action, and that, based on that information, the person executing the certificate believes there is a reasonable and meritorious case for the private action.”

Marijuana businesses may avoid such 60-day notices and potential litigation by becoming familiar with the various chemicals that require warning labels, placing warning labels on their products, and ensuring that the pesticide levels in the products are compliant with California regulations. A comprehensive list of the 800 chemicals identified by the State can be found here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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