Federal Lawsuit Blames Curaleaf for Death From Undisclosed Amounts of THC in Its CBD Drops

A wrongful death lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon on Jan. 1 against Curaleaf, the Massachusetts-based cannabis company started in Portland, says its CBD oil contained THC that killed a 78-year-old man in Eastern Oregon.

The lawsuit alleges that Curaleaf sold droppers of CBD oil to customers that contained undisclosed amounts of THC and alleges that the plaintiff, Earl Jacobe, ultimately died from complications after he ingested the Select CBD Drops.

The lawsuit says that Jacobe took the drops in late August 2021. Shortly after, the lawsuit alleges, 78-year-old Jacobe fell ill.

“[He] believed he was going to die, and experienced strokelike symptoms, and experienced sudden numbness and weakness in the face, arm, and leg, sudden confusion, trouble speaking, and difficulty understanding speech, trouble seeing straight, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, and lack of coordination,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Jacobe turned pale, began sweating profusely, and had to be life flighted to the emergency room on two separate occasions. Due to defendant’s negligence, Mr. Jacobe experienced ongoing psychosis, discomfort, and distress, and interference with life activities.”

Jacobe, who lived in the Lake County town of Christmas Valley, died just shy of two months later. The lawsuit claims the mislabeled drops were a “substantial factor” in his death. His family seeks a trial by jury.

“Defendant labeled, marketed, advertised and sold the Select CBD Drops consumed by Mr. Jacobe as containing cannabidiol (CBD), which does not produce intoxicating effects,” the lawsuit reads. “In reality, the Select CBD Drops consumed by Mr. Jacobe contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces intoxicating effects.”

Curaleaf did not respond to WW’s request for comment.

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission initially recalled hundreds of the CBD drops made by Cura Cannabis (acquired by Curaleaf in 2020) in September. Shortly after, the company recalled bottles of the same brand of drops, but which were supposed to contain THC. The OLCC found that the THC drops did not, in fact, contain THC, as claimed.

“Defendant was negligent by failing to exercise quality control standards of its products which would have detected THC inside its Select CBD Drops,” the lawsuit says. “Defendant was negligent by offering a tainted product which contained a dangerous foreign object which was likely to cause harm and unwanted health consequences when unintentionally consumed.”

Michael Fuller, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit, has represented over 10 plaintiffs who have accused Cura of selling the CBD drops without properly labeling them, leading to health issues. The company has claimed that the mislabeling was an unintentional mistake by a junior employee.

Fuller tells WW that nine of the 13 claims against Cura for the CBD drops were confidentially settled.

Curaleaf is no stranger to legal fights.

A class action lawsuit was filed against Cura in 2020 after it failed to disclose additives in thousands of its Select brand vape products. That class action was also brought by Fuller. That resulted in a $500,000 settlement.

The lawsuit came just two days after Cura paid the maximum fine to the OLCC for not disclosing the addition of botanical terpenes in the vape oils, and at a time when non-marijuana-derived terpenes weren’t allowed in products due to the vape-related respiratory illness outbreak in 2019. The OLCC also tacked on a $10,000 charge to the fine for “dishonest conduct.”

The company was founded in Portland in 2016, then called Cura Cannabis. In 2020, the day after the company paid its fine to the OLCC for mislabeling its vapes, it was acquired by Massachusetts-based Curaleaf. It was the highest-valued cannabis company in the state at the time, and it sold to Curaleaf for under $400 million (when the acquisition was first announced, it was valued at over a billion dollars).

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