Horn v. Med. Marijuana, Inc.

Citation383 F.Supp.3d 114
Decision Date17 April 2019
Docket NumberCase # 15-CV-701-FPG
Parties Douglas J. HORN, et al., Plaintiffs, v. MEDICAL MARIJUANA, INC., et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York

383 F.Supp.3d 114

Douglas J. HORN, et al., Plaintiffs,
MEDICAL MARIJUANA, INC., et al., Defendants.

Case # 15-CV-701-FPG

United States District Court, W.D. New York.

Signed April 17, 2019

383 F.Supp.3d 118

Jeffrey M. Benjamin, Kupillas Unger & Benjamin LLP, Great Neck, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Roy A. Mura, Daniel Solomon Gvertz, Mura & Storm, PLLC, Buffalo, NY, Jean-Claude Mazzola, Hanoch Sheps, Mazzola Lindstrom LLP, Wendy J. Lindstrom, Messner Reeves LLP, New York, NY, Jean E. Smith-Gonnell, Pro Hac Vice, Messner Reeves LLP, Denver, CO, for Defendants.


HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR., Chief Judge

383 F.Supp.3d 119


Plaintiffs Douglas J. Horn and Cindy Harp-Horn bring suit against Defendants Medical Marijuana, Inc. ("MMI"), Dixie Elixirs and Edibles ("Dixie LLC"), Red Dice Holdings, LLC ("RDH"), and Dixie Botanicals.1 ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants engaged in fraud, negligence, and unlawful conduct with respect to the sale and marketing of their hemp-based consumable oil—"Dixie X Dew Drops." Before the Court are six motions: (1) Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 60 ); (2) Defendants MMI and RDH's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 61 ); (3) Defendant Dixie LLC's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 62 ); (4) Plaintiffs' motion to amend (ECF No. 68 ); (5) Dixie LLC's motion to strike (ECF No. 71 ); and (6) Defendants MMI and RDH's motion to strike (ECF No. 74 ). The Court resolves all of these motions in this omnibus order.


Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows that there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Disputes concerning material facts are genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In deciding whether genuine issues of material fact exist, the court construes all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-moving party's favor. See Jeffreys v. City of New York , 426 F.3d 549, 553 (2d Cir. 2005). However, the non-moving party "may not rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation." F.D.I.C. v. Great Am. Ins. Co. , 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010) (quotation omitted).


This case concerns a product called CBD oil. CBD is short for "cannabidiol," and it is one of the "unique molecules" found in the Cannabis sativa plant. ECF No. 61-8 at 18. The Cannabis sativa plant is better known as the plant from which marijuana is derived. But it is also the

383 F.Supp.3d 120

species of plant from which industrial hemp is derived. The Eighth Circuit provides a helpful description:

Both industrial hemp and the drug commonly known as marijuana derive from the plant designated Cannabis sativa L. In general, drug-use cannabis is produced from the flowers and leaves of certain strains of the plant, while industrial-use cannabis is typically produced from the stalks and seeds of other strains of the plant. All cannabis plants contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties, but strains of the plant grown for drug use contain a higher THC concentration than those typically grown for industrial use.

Monson v. Drug Enforcement Admin. , 589 F.3d 952, 955 (8th Cir. 2009) (emphasis added). In other words, the distinction is one of degree—while "the marijuana plant and industrial hemp plant come from the same botanical species," the "hemp plant has been crossbred to have low concentrations of THC." Shelly B. DeAdder, The Legal Status of Cannabidiol Oil and the Need for Congressional Action , 9 BIOPLR 68, 72 (2015). CBD can be extracted from both the marijuana and hemp varieties of Cannabis sativa. See id. at 72 & n.34.

Products containing CBD have become hot commodities in recent years, and sales are "projected to grow tremendously." W. Michael Schuster & Jack Wroldsen, Entrepreneurship and Legal Uncertainty: Unexpected Federal Trademark Registrations for Marijuana Derivatives , 55 AMBLJ 117, 135 (2018). Advocates claim that CBD provides numerous health benefits, particularly in the area of pain management. See id. at 128-29 ; see also ECF No. 61-8 at 19.

The product at issue here is a hemp-derived CBD oil called "Dixie X Dew Drops" (hereinafter "Dixie X"). Cindy Orser, Defendants' scientific expert, explains how these products are generally created. There is an initial "extraction step," where hemp is combined with a solvent like ethanol, butane, pressurized CO2, or propane. ECF No. 61-8 at 79-80. This process yields a CBD extract, which is then distilled to remove plant compounds, solvents, THC, and other materials. Id. at 83. The intended end-product is a pure CBD concentrate that can then be infused into a consumable final product.

Like other CBD oil products, Dixie X contains CBD that is "isolate[d] and extract[ed]" from hemp plants. ECF No. 60-8 at 1 ; see also ECF No. 69-4 at 12-13. The resulting CBD is then "infuse[d] ... into [a] line of hemp products." ECF No. 60-8 at 1. The label on Dixie X indicates that it contains "[p]ure glycerin, hemp whole plant extract, CBD extract derived from medicinal hemp, [and] cinnamon extract." ECF No. 60-15 at 1 (asterisk omitted). Importantly, despite the extraction and distillation process, Dixie X contains a detectible, albeit small, amount of THC. See , e.g. , ECF No. 60-14.

All three defendants played a role in the sale of Dixie X. MMI and Dixie LLC entered into a joint venture to produce, distribute, and sell Dixie X. See ECF No. 69-2 at 1. They formed RDH for that purpose in April 2012. Id. MMI would hold a 60% ownership stake in RDH, while Dixie LLC would hold a 40% stake. See ECF No. 68-2 at 106. Tripp Keber, who was also Dixie LLC's managing member, would act as the manager of RDH.3 Id. at 2. In practice, it appears that MMI provided financial support

383 F.Supp.3d 121

for the venture, Dixie LLC manufactured Dixie X, and RDH was responsible for selling the product. See ECF No. 61-1 ¶¶ 3-5. There is also a question of fact as to whether Keber acted as a director of MMI, though the exact dates of his tenure are unclear from the record. Compare ECF No. 61-11 ¶ 12, with ECF No. 68-2 at 79.

In September 2012, Plaintiffs purchased a 500 mg bottle of Dixie X. They had researched the product from various sources, and they hoped it would relieve the pain and inflammation Douglas was then suffering from as a result of a motor vehicle accident.4 Plaintiffs claimed to have relied on four sources in deciding to purchase Dixie X.

Plaintiffs first learned about Dixie X in an issue of "High Times" magazine—a periodical dedicated to marijuana culture and news. In an article titled "High & Healthy" by Elise McDonough, there was the following writeup:

CBD for Everyone!

Using a proprietary extraction process and a strain of high-CBD hemp grown in a secret, foreign location, Colorado's Dixie Elixirs and Edibles now offers a new product line called Dixie X, which contains 0% THC and up to 500 mg of CBD. This new CBD-rich medicine will be available in several forms, including a tincture, a topical and in capsules. Promoted as "a revolution in medical hemp-powered wellness," the non-psychoactive products will first roll out in Colorado MMCs (medical marijuana centers), with plans to quickly expand outside the medical marijuana market. "It has taken a tremendous amount of time, money and effort, but finally patients here in Colorado—and ultimately all individuals who are interested in utilizing CBD for medicinal benefit—will be able to have access to it," says Tripp Keber, Dixie's managing director. "We are importing industrial hemp from outside the US using an FDA import license—it's below federal guidelines for THC, which is 0.3%—and we are taking that hemp and extracting the CBD. We have meticulously reviewed state and federal statutes, and we do not believe that we're operating in conflict with any federal law as it's related to the Dixie X [hemp-derived] products."

ECF No. 61-7 at 42.

After reviewing the article, Plaintiffs decided to conduct further research. They watched two YouTube videos of interviews between podcasters and a person who identifies himself as Tripp Keber (the "YouTube interviews").5 In these videos, Keber stated that Dixie X did not contain THC.6

Plaintiffs also reviewed an FAQ on the Dixie X website, which provided further information on the product:

Is CBD from hemp legal?

Our revolutionary Hemp oil cannabidiol (CBD) wellness products are legal to consume both here in the U.S. and in many countries abroad. The United
383 F.Supp.3d 122
States currently considers industrial hemp products to be legal as long as they are derived from industrial hemp and not from any part of the plants categorized ... as

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