The lawsuit goes to trial in Denver federal court today. It was filed by two Colorado landowners, and the suit claims that a nearby marijuana growing operation has reduced their property values — in part because the smell makes horseback riding less pleasant.
The lawsuit was filed in February 2015 by a national anti-marijuana group, Safe Streets Alliance, on behalf of members Phillis Windy Hope Reilly and Michael P. Reilly, who purchased three lots in a Rye, Colorado, development called the Meadows at Legacy Ranch — “approximately 105 acres of beautiful rolling pasture with sweeping mountain vistas that include views of Pike’s Peak,” the lawsuit notes.
The couple doesn’t actually live in the development but does like to visit occasionally on weekends so their children can ride horses and hike, according to Westward.
Brian Barnes, one of the couple’s lawyers, said they have since built a house on the property and claim “pungent, foul odors” from a neighboring indoor marijuana grow have hurt their property’s value and their ability to use and enjoy it, reports the Associated Press. “That’s just not right,” Barnes said. “It’s not right to have people in violation of federal law injuring others.”
The company named in the lawsuit, Alternative Holistic Healing LLC has property adjacent to the Reillys’ property, at 6480 Pickney Road. The lawsuit claims “growing recreational marijuana is ‘noxious, annoying or offensive activity’ by virtually any definition because marijuana plants are highly odorous, and their offense smell travels long distances.”
However, while the claim of an offensive odor and the devaluing of property values is part and parcel of the lawsuit, the Riley’s specifically filed the original lawsuit “to vindicate the federal laws prohibiting the cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana and their rights under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”).”
Use of the RICO act is very troubling to marijuana growers across the country, and everyone is now following this case. The RICO act was created to target the Mafia in the 1970s, allowing prosecutors to argue leaders of a criminal enterprise should pay a price along with lower-level defendants.
But a part of the RICO act also allows private parties to file lawsuits claiming their businesses or property have been damaged by a “criminal enterprise.” And herein lies the crux of the case. In 2017, the Denver-based federal appeals court ruled that the Reillys could use the anti-racketeering law to sue the neighboring marijuana grow.
The lawsuit will come down to whether or not a jury will be convinced that a violation of the RICO act has taken place. Keep in mind that any growing, selling, possession or use of marijuana is strictly against federal laws. It will be interesting to see where this case goes.