DENVER (CN) – A Denver man shot his wife to death after eating marijuana candy, his family claims in court, and they want marijuana manufacturers to warn users that edible pot can cause “psychotic behavior.”
Richard Kirk ate some “Karma Kandy Orange Ginger” candies from the Nutritional Elements dispensary in Denver on April 14, 2014, his three children say in lawsuit in Denver County Court. The label said the candy contained “101 mg THC,” according to the April 13 complaint. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active ingredient in marijuana.
The Kirk children say their father acted strangely while under the influence, and ended up shooting their mother, Kristine.
Police reports indicate that Kristine called 911 when her husband became violent. In the audio recording of her last phone call, she can be heard saying, “Stay away from the gun!” The 911 call concludes with Kristine’s screams and the sound of a gunshot.
When police showed up at the house, the Kirks’ youngest son told officers, “Dad killed Mom,” according to the Denver Post.
The Post and other Colorado news outlets reported that Kirk also asked his 7-year-old son to kill him, so “Dad and Mom could be together with God.”
Kirk has pleaded not guilty to murder by reason of insanity. He is the lead defendant but, suing through their guardians, the children also blame Nutritional Elements Inc. and its distributor, Gaia’s Garden.
“Kirk experienced strong drug effects, including possible psychotic behavior, following the ingestion of the marijuana infused edible candy,” the complaint states.
“Nutritional Elements Inc. and Gaia’s Garden owed a duty to plaintiffs to use reasonable care to warn users … of the risk of harm or injury including that the ingesting of the marijuana edibles candy manufactured, packaged, and sold as ‘Karma Candy Orange Ginger’ may cause the user … to experience strong drug effects, including possible psychotic behavior.”
But Denver attorney Jeff Wilson, who is not involved in the case and specializes in marijuana business law, says Kirk’s “psychotic episode” would be hard to blame on the candy.
“My gut feeling is that it would be pretty hard to establish a product liability,” Wilson told Courthouse News.
“It’d be kind of like suing a liquor store for making you an alcoholic, or suing a liquor store because you got a DUI. It’d be a pretty hard claim to win. It’s something we’ve heard kicked around as an idea, but I haven’t seen anything go through the courts yet on that front.”
New Colorado rules governing testing and labeling of edible marijuana are to take effect in October. The regulations will require THC testing of all edibles, but allow variance in the reported amounts.
“The new laws are allowing for a variance of 15 percent potency,” Wilson said. “You can say your product has 100 milligrams of active THC if, over a period of time, it tests between 90 and 110 [mg].”
Current Colorado guidelines require edible marijuana labels to reveal the exact amount of THC found in the batch’s testing, but the testing itself is not mandatory.
“They either have to say that it has not been tested for potency, or they have to show the actual results of the test,” Wilson said.
While legalizing recreational marijuana has created a plethora of legal problems, Wilson said edible pot comes with a special kind of problem.
“The size mandated by the state is a serving size of 10 milligrams,” Wilson said. “A hundred milligrams is far too much for most people. The big problem with the edibles is people are just consuming too much, and they’re not really realizing, because it’s delayed onset, just how impaired they’re going to be.
“Most places educate consumers about that when they’re talking to them about sales,” Wilson said. “Most containers have some kind of warning that at least specify that the standard serving size is 10 milligrams. Products have to somehow be demarcated into 10 mg sizes.”
Prosecutors are still looking into the possibility that Kirk planned to kill his wife, who had a $340,000 life insurance policy. She is survived by three sons, who were in the home when she was killed.
The children are represented by Gregory Gold, who did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment. Nor did Nutritional Elements or Gaia’s Garden.
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