Organigram settling class action that alleged pot tainted with pesticides

·2 min read
Moncton-based Organigram recalled medical cannabis produced between Feb. 1 and Dec. 16, 2016, after testing found 'trace' amounts of pesticides not authorized for use with cannabis. (Brian Chisholm/CBC - image credit)
Moncton-based Organigram recalled medical cannabis produced between Feb. 1 and Dec. 16, 2016, after testing found 'trace' amounts of pesticides not authorized for use with cannabis. (Brian Chisholm/CBC - image credit)

New Brunswick cannabis producer Organigram has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed five years ago that alleged its medical marijuana was tainted with pesticides.

The proposed $2.31 million settlement to class members still needs to be approved by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, where the class action was filed.

The case stemmed from allegations marijuana grown and sold by the Moncton-based company contained pesticides not approved for use on cannabis.

The class-action lawsuit was filed after two large recalls in late 2016 and early 2017 of medical cannabis produced between Feb. 1 and Dec. 16, 2016, after testing found "trace" amounts of bifenazate, malathion and myclobutanil.

Elizabeth Chiu/CBC
Elizabeth Chiu/CBC

Wagners Law Firm and Organigram announced the proposed settlement in separate news releases Friday morning. The company declined an interview as the case is still going on.

"I'm glad it finally is over, or finally seems to be over," Dawn Rae Downton of Halifax, the representative plaintiff in the case, said in an interview.

"It was a long, convoluted case on which a lot of people worked really hard to to try and make the case that the class I represented got sick, really quite sick, after using Organigram's medical cannabis."

Downton had alleged she experienced nausea, dizziness and headaches, symptoms that subsided after she stopped consuming Organigram's cannabis.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled in April 2020 that the plaintiff failed to present enough evidence that the cannabis caused illness. As a result, members of the class couldn't claim damages for health effects.

Downton called that decision disappointing.

The law firm's news release says the settlement would apply to all those who purchased medical cannabis from Organigram that was the subject of a voluntary or involuntary recall on or before Feb. 14, 2019.

The case alleges those people, known as the class members, didn't receive the product they had bargained for and should be compensated with a return of the purchase price.

The proposed settlement still needs approval of the Nova Scotia court.

A hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 31 in Halifax.

Wagner's news release says that if the court accepts the settlement, eligible class members will automatically receive an email from a court-appointed settlement administrator about their payment and the payment itself.

A news release from Organigram says the payments will be "less any refunds they have already received, as well as the payment of legal fees."

Downton isn't sure how much she would get back.

"It has never been about the money that I would get back. For me, it was about holding a corporation accountable for not selling the product those people thought they were getting."

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