Pot candy manufacturer faces lawsuit over Denver death

© Steve Dipaola
The sons of a Colorado woman whose husband shot her in 2014 after consuming marijuana candy have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer. It is the first wrongful death case against the recreational pot industry.

Kristine Kirk was shot and killed in April 2014 by her husband Richard in front of her youngest son, who was 7, according to the Denver Post. The children, now aged 9, 13 and 15, are filing a lawsuit against Gaia’s Garden LLC for manufacturing the edible marijuana candy that Richard Kirk consumed before the murder. The lawsuit also names Nutritional Elements Inc., as defendants in the complaint.

Although recreational marijuana use has been legal in Colorado since 2013, the lawsuit focuses on whether or not the manufacturer and distributor of the edible marijuana product did their due diligence to warn users about potential side effects.

Edibles themselves are not the evil,” the family's attorneys, Greg Gold and David Olivas said in a statement, “It is the failure to warn, the failure to properly dose, the failure to tell the consumer how to safely use edibles, that is the evil.

Richard Kirk had purchased a ‘Karma Kandy Orange Ginger’ and eaten a part of it prior to killing his wife. The candy was about the size of a tootsie roll and had 10 servings of 10 milligrams of THC, the chief psychoactive component of cannabis. The lawsuit claims that Gaia’s Garden did not include warnings about “known side effects” on the candy’s packages. Colorado has since changed its requirements for labeling edibles.

The lawsuit also claims that the public was given a “false sense of security” about edibles, as the business failed to inform customers that edibles take longer to kick in compared to smoking marijuana. An untouched joint was also found inside the home.

Kirk initially entered a plea of not guilty, but amended his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity in September 2015. The defense has leaned on Kristine’s 911 call prior to the shooting, in which she reported that Richard was ranting, asking her to shoot him, and “totally hallucinating,according to the Post.

Kirk’s defense team has found that blood taken on the night of the shooting tested positive only for THC, and Kirk had 2.3 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Whether that will help his case remains to be seen, as Colorado’s limit for driving safely is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter.

Consuming marijuana edibles may lead to a strong effect while maintaining low levels of THC in the blood, claims a report by Ryan Vandrey, a researcher of the effects of marijuana at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. The report does note that Vandrey has never seen a reaction like Kirk’s, but some people do experience psychotic behavior after ingesting pot.

How the manufacturer and the distributors of the marijuana edibles will respond to the lawsuits remains to be seen. However, the case may also be impacted by reports that the Kirks had been fighting for several weeks prior to the incident – along with claims that Richard had changed his payroll from depositing into a joint account to a personal one.