Grow – Neighboring Properties Unaffected
Grow – Neighboring Properties Unaffected A southern Colorado marijuana grow facility did not hurt the property values of a neighboring couple, a jury in Denver decided Wednesday, ending a closely watched lawsuit that had hung like a dark cloud over the state’s cannabis industry.
If the lawsuit had been successful, it could have created a blueprint for opponents of marijuana legalization to dismantle the industry through civil cases brought under federal anti-racketeering laws. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as the RICO act, allows plaintiffs to collect three times the amount of damages that jurors find plus attorneys’ fees, meaning that marijuana businesses — which are illegal under federal law and, thus, in violation of RICO — could be on the hook for million-dollar payouts over simple property disputes.
Instead, jurors deliberated for about half a day before reaching a verdict in favor of the facility, which sits about 2 miles east of Interstate 25 near the town of Colorado City.
“They found that we were not responsible for any of the alleged damages,” said attorney Matthew Buck, who represented the grow and its owner, Parker Walton.
“A loss, in this case, would have meant the loss of his business,” Buck said.
The lawsuit was brought by Michael P. and Phillis Windy Hope Reilly, who own and live on land adjacent to the grow facility. They said the grow damaged their property values because of noise and odor, because it harmed their views, and because no one wants to live near illegal activity.
The Reillys were represented by a Washington, D.C.-based law firm with ties to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. An anti-drug organization called Safe Streets Alliance had also originally been a plaintiff in the case, but it was dismissed during the litigation.
The Reillys declined to comment as they left the courthouse Wednesday.
University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin, an expert on cannabis law, said the verdict is a cautious victory for Colorado’s marijuana industry. Had the Reillys prevailed, it could have created incentives for plaintiffs and lawyers to bring many more RICO cases against marijuana businesses — something a Safe Streets attorney had suggested was the plan.