RICO Claims Against Colo. Marijuana Growers Reinstated

Bloomberg Law’s combination of innovative analytics, research tools and practical guidance provides you with everything you need to be a successful litigator.

By Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson

Landowners may have a narrow way forward when seeking to ward off marijuana growers, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reinstated their civil RICO claims June 7 ( Safe Streets Alliance v. Hickenlooper , 10th Cir., No. 16-1048, 6/7/17 ).

Landowners claimed that growing marijuana near their property caused noxious fumes and decreased the value of their property.

Those injuries are sufficient to allow the case to move forward, Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wrote for the court.

But the court emphasized its “narrow” holding, which does “no more than apply the heavily fact-dependent standard Congress enumerated” in the Rackateer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act “to the allegations in this case.”

“We are not suggesting that every private citizen purportedly aggrieved by another person, a group, or an enterprise that is manufacturing, distributing, selling, or using marijuana may pursue a claim under RICO,” the court. “Nor are we implying that every person tangentially injured in his business or property by such activities has a viable RICO claim.”

“Rather, we hold only that the” landowners here “alleged sufficient facts to plausibly establish the requisite elements of their claims against the” marijuana growers.

Soon Forgotten

The court also prevented an end-run around the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nebraska and Oklahoma attempted to sue Colorado in the Supreme Court over the latter’s legalization of recreational marijuana.

In doing so, they “conceded” that the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over suits between the 50 states.

Those concessions “apparently were soon forgotten,” the Tenth Circuit said.

After the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the states attempted to intervene in this case, which also included a broader challenge to Coloardo’s recreational marijuana laws.

That’s something they can’t do, the Tenth Circuit said.

Judges Harris L. Hartz and Jerome A. Holmes joined the opinion.

Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, Washington, and Jackson Lewis P.C., Boston, represented the plaintiffs. The Colorado, Nebraska, and Oklahoma Attorney General’s Offices represented the states. The Cannabis Law Firm, Denver, represented the marijuana growers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bna.com

For More Information

Full text at http://src.bna.com/pBs.

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Litigation on Bloomberg Law