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The First Cannabis Lawsuit?

Tamir Bresler
Written by Tamir Bresler

LaCroix being Sued for using Terpenes, “Synthetic Compounds,” in Products

“LaCroix is embracing its cult status.” – Business Insider

“No, LaCroix Isn’t Poisoning You Like You’re A Giant Cockroach.” – FiveThirtyEight

“Don’t worry: Unless someone throws a full can at you very, very hard, your LaCroix isn’t going to kill you.” –VICE

At the beginning of last month, a story began wildly circulating about a strange lawsuit made stranger by its named defendant, the bougie beverage company LaCroix. National Beverage Corp. (NASDAQ: FIZZ), the parent company of LaCroix, released a statement on October 1st saying it “categorically denies all allegations” regarding the lawsuit, stating: “All essences contained in LaCroix are certified by our suppliers to be 100% natural.”

This may seem like a strange topic to be talking about on Terpenes and Testing. After all, what does an FDA lawsuit have to do with cannabis appreciation or science?

I personally can’t stand the sight of the beverage. But, being in medical school, where students have collectively if unofficially decided to boycott actual sodas, their silly designs seem to make an appearance in every one of our student functions. And as much as I’d love to go into a rant regarding the superiority of sugar-containing carbonated beverages that’s not what this is about.

What it is about is that the lawsuit by the Chicago-based law firm Beaumont Costales alleges LaCroix beverages DO NOT, in fact, contain all-natural products. Rather, their flavoring “contains a number of artificial ingredients.” The ingredients involved?

TERPENES!!!

The lawsuit explicitly names three terpenes as the dangerous “chemicals” involved:

limonene, which can cause kidney toxicity and tumors;

linaloolpropionate, which is used to treat cancer; and

linalool, which is used in cockroach insecticide” [emphasis added].

When asked to comment on the hilarity of this, our editor, Dr. Jason Lupoi, responded:

“Limonene has been killing people for years, hasn’t it? Me? I won’t even touch an orange, let alone eat it.

It’s amazing that Mythbusters says it’s plausible that roaches have survived nuclear explosions, and they can supposedly romp around without heads for a week, but toss them in a field of lavender, or its extract, and they’ll croak?” (oh…yeah…that’s sarcasm.)

Gavin Sacks, an associate professor of food science at Cornell University, spoke with reporters at Live Science. “The [FDA] definition of the label ‘natural’ is not vigorously defined,” he said. “There’s not a regulatory definition of ‘natural’; rather there’s a consumer idea of what natural is or feels like.”

It’s this regulatory vagueness that Beaumont Costales wants to exploit. The FDA even notes on its own website that it “has not engaged in rule making to establish a formal definition for the term.” Rather, the regulatory agency considers that in order for a product to be natural, “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.”

Although cannabis enthusiasts can get a kick out of reading this nonsense, it is worrisome that the FDA does not have a clear statement regarding the regulatory nature of terpenes. As compounds that are synthesized in nature by plants, there is no reason they should not be considered natural products. And it’s worrisome how some people who have a grudge against our industry might choose to exploit that later on.

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Tamir Bresler

Tamir Bresler

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