Pubdate: Fri, 20 Feb 2015
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Valerie Richardson


Plaintiffs Turn to Federal Government to Protect Properties

DENVER - A Colorado hotel franchise and two property owners filed 
lawsuits Thursday to bring a halt to the state's legalization of 
recreational marijuana, citing violations of the federal Racketeer 
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The federal lawsuits, which also list the anti-crime Safe Streets 
Alliance as a plaintiff, are the first of their kind challenging 
Colorado's first-in-the-nation recreational marijuana market, which 
began operating in January 2014.

The lawsuits "ask the federal courts to order Colorado officials to 
comply with federal law and stop issuing state licenses to deal 
illegal drugs," according to a Thursday statement on the alliance's website.

"In addition to shutting down the operations targeted in its suit, 
Safe Streets hopes that its use of the federal racketeering laws will 
serve as a model for other business and property owners who have been 
injured by the rise of the commercial marijuana industry," the statement said.

The latest challenges arrive two months after the attorneys general 
for Nebraska and Oklahoma filed lawsuits against Colorado alleging 
that recreational marijuana is seeping into their states illegally. 
That case is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority in Washington, D.C., said 
he doubted the effort would be successful, but "if it is, its primary 
effect will be to push marijuana back into the hands of the cartel- 
and gang-controlled black market."

"The legal marijuana industry has to abide by regulations and 
controls that seek to protect public safety, whereas organized crime 
groups have absolutely no incentive to play by the rules and keep 
marijuana out of the hands of young people or to test and label 
products for potency and purity," Mr. Angell said.

Along with state officials, the lawsuits list as plaintiffs a number 
of pot shops, business consultants, bankers, construction companies 
and others accused of being part of the "racketeering enterprise."

The first lawsuit was filed by Michael and Phillis Reilly, who own 
105 acres adjacent to a recreational marijuana grow in Rye, Colorado, 
owned by 6480 Pickney LLC. The company has leased the land to Camp 
Feel Good, according to the brief.

The lawsuit alleges that those corporations, along with participating 
pot shops, a construction company and an insurance company, form a 
racketeering ring "for the purpose of cultivating marijuana," which 
violates the RICO statute.

The Reillys, who own nearby lots used for horseback riding at the 
Meadows at Legacy Ranch, have had their property values reduced by 
the large marijuana cultivation facility, the lawsuit says.

"Furthermore, the large quantity of drugs at marijuana grows makes 
them targets for theft, and a prospective buyer of the Reillys' land 
would reasonably worry that the 6480 Pickney Road marijuana grow will 
increase crime in the area," said the lawsuit. "Prospective buyers 
would also worry that once it is complete the 6480 Pickney Road 
marijuana grow will emit pungent odors, thus further interfering with 
the use and enjoyment of the Reillys' land."

The second lawsuit was filed by New Vision Hotels Two, a company that 
owns a Holiday Inn franchise in Frisco, Colorado. A marijuana 
retailer, Summit Marijuana, is constructing a store that will share a 
parking lot with the hotel.

The hotel attracts large numbers of families and teen groups, 
including members of two youth ski teams whose booking agents have 
said they will not return to the hotel once the pot shop opens for 
business, according to the brief.

"Last year alone, those two teams were responsible for approximately 
$50,000 in revenue for the hotel," said the brief. "Numerous other 
ski teams regularly stay with New Vision, and additional teams are 
likely to decide not to return after they learn of Defendants' nearby 
recreational marijuana operations."

The lawsuit could have an impact beyond Colorado.

Colorado and Washington state voters legalized recreational marijuana 
in 2012, followed by Oregon and Alaska last year. The District of 
Columbia has legalized the use of small amounts of marijuana for 
adults but not retail sales.

Although marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Justice 
Department issued a guidance in August 2013 essentially allowing 
states that have legalized pot to proceed under certain parameters.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom