Racketeering laws invoked in pot suit over property rights



DENVER— A jury trial opened Monday in Denver Federal Court to consider the claims of a Pueblo couple that a marijuana operation adjacent to their property has diminished its value and obscured their views of Pikes Peak.
According to an article by the Associated Press, the suit appeals to federal anti-racketeering law to target cannabis companies. The complaint was first filed in 2015 by Washington, D.C.-based attorneys on behalf of Hope and Michael Reilly.
In 2017, a Denver-based federal appeals court ruled that the Reillys could use the anti-racketeering law to sue the individual cultivating marijuana on a neighboring acreage. Insurance companies and other entities originally named in the Reillys’ suit have gradually been removed, some after reaching financial settlements out of court.
Congress created the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — better known as RICO — 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, the article said.
But the anti-racketeering law also allows private parties to file lawsuits claiming their business or property has been damaged by a criminal enterprise. Those who prove it can be financially compensated for damages times three, plus attorneys’ expenses.
The Reillys’ attorney said the couple purchased three tracts of land between 2011 and 2014, totaling more than 100 acres. Only months later did they learn there was a marijuana business purchased in 2014 bordering the final tract they purchased. The Reillys’ lawsuit was filed in early 2015.
The marijuana producer, Parker Walton, erected a 5,000-square-foot building to grow and harvest cannabis indoors. The producer announced his company’s opening and first harvest on Instagram. Parker sells his product to retail stores and employs less than five people, Walton’s attorney said.
Historically the U.S. Supreme Court has limited the scope of the RICO laws when applied to other industries. The marijuana industries in states that have licensed the drug still must deal with the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Similar suits have been filed in California, Massachusetts and Oregon.
Cannabis lawyers claim the intent of the Reillys’ attorneys and anti-marijuana legalization groups is to encourage third-party organizations to sever ties with marijuana firms and force cannabis businesses to shut down.
Reillys’ attorneys commented that it is not proper for anyone to violate federal law and injure the rights of others.


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