New Brunswick

Lawsuit against Organigram expands to allege tainted pot made users ill

A class action lawsuit against Moncton-based Organigram Inc. is broadening its scope to include claims the medical marijuana company's tainted cannabis sickened users before it was recalled.

Class action lawsuit now says clients who used company's medical marijuana were physically harmed

A class action lawsuit against Organigram in Moncton will now allege that cannabis products tainted by chemicals made medical marijuana users sick. The lawsuit has not yet been certified, and the allegations haven't been tested in court. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

A class action lawsuit against Moncton-based Organigram Inc. is broadening its scope to include claims the medical marijuana company's tainted cannabis sickened clients before it was recalled.

Last March, Wagners law firm in Halifax filed a notice of action in Nova Scotia Supreme Court against the company over two pesticides that turned up in products that were supposed to be organic.

At the time, the lawsuit alleged negligent "design, development, testing, manufacturing, distribution, sale and marketing of [Organigram's] purported organic medical cannabis."

Organigram lost its organic certification and voluntarily recalled almost all of its products sold last year after two unapproved pesticides — myclobutanil and bifenazate — were found in them.

Lawyer Maddy Carter said Wednesday that the class action lawsuit was amended last month to include allegations that Organigram products made users ill.

When burned, myclobutanil produces hydrogen cyanide, which interferes with how oxygen is used in the body and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Users reported symptoms

Carter said the scope of the lawsuit was expanded because clients reported suffering "negative health effects" after they consumed the company's medical cannabis.

The most common complaints were nausea, vomiting and dizziness, she said.

"Even before people knew that these Organigram products contained these two unauthorized pesticides, before they were notified by Organigram, and before the recall occurred, they were experiencing these things and had gone to their doctors and said, 'You know, I don't think this is supposed to be happening,'" Carter said.

The lawsuit has not yet been certified, and none of the allegations have been tested in court.

Carter said the case will go to court for a certification motion on June 18 next year. It would only proceed to trial if certified.

Have to opt out

Wagners has been contacted by about 130 people but the law firm believes many more were affected by the problem with the marijuana products, Carter said.

She said the suit is "opt out," so people who fall within the definition of the lawsuit are included unless they ask not to be.

As a result of the recall, Organigram's organic certification was suspended in January. The company said in October that it has started the process of getting the certification back for its organic marijuana, which it plans to grow separately from other marijuana. 

Organigram declined a request for an interview but sent a statement by email.

Company sees no evidence of harm

"At this time, Organigram cannot comment on ongoing litigation, but as of this date the company can confirm that it has not been provided any medical evidence documenting any adverse health reaction."

Earlier this year, Organigram said it recently completed an investigation into events leading to the recall and has put new growing and harvesting protocols in place. 

The company did not say what it discovered about how the two pesticides got into its products.

Organigram is one of three suppliers of recreational marijuana announced by the New Brunswick government this fall.