Two federal lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado on Thursday morning against the state’s politicians, public servants and businesses aim to “end the sale of recreational marijuana in this state,” according to attorney David H. Thompson, who represents the plaintiffs in both cases.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is among the defendants named in the lawsuits, which focus on property owners’ rights under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (aka RICO), a federal statute meant to eliminate “the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce,” according to the Justice Department.
Both suits were filed by common plaintiff Safe Streets Alliance, a Washington D.C.-based group opposed to the legalization of marijuana. Like a similar lawsuit proposed by neighboring states Nebraska and Oklahoma, these actions also look at the Supremacy Clause, which argues that Colorado’s regulations should be struck down because they conflict with federal law.
But at a news conference at the Colorado state capitol on Thursday morning, University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin said he thinks it will be tough to prove to a federal court that striking down the laws will lead to a better situation.
The Nebraska/Oklahoma lawsuit
“That leaves them in a much worse place than under the status quo,” Kamin said.
In one lawsuit, plaintiffs Hope and Michael Reilly claim the construction of Rocky Mountain Organics’ recreational marijuana cultivation facility at 6480 Pickney Road in Rye “interferes” with their views and plans to build a home and work space on their 105 acres of Pueblo County land.
“From our property you can see the Green Horn Valley, Pikes Peak to the north and the Spanish Peaks to the south,” Hope Reilly wrote in a statement released Thursday. “We bought our land in part for those spectacular views, but now they are marred by the sight of an illegal drug conspiracy at our doorstep.
“The impact of this on our property is devastating.”
Multiple voicemails left at Rocky Mountain Organics’ store in Black Hawk for owners Joseph and Jason Licata, named as defendants, went unreturned Thursday morning. Other defendants named in this lawsuit are Hickenlooper, Department of Revenue executive director Barbara Brohl, Marijuana Enforcement Division director Lewis Koski and the Pueblo County Commission.
In the other lawsuit, the owner of the Holiday Inn in Frisco claims its business is already suffering because of a recreational marijuana shop they say is planning on opening 75 yards from the hotel’s front door.
“Many of its guests are youth ski teams and families with children,” the lawsuit says. “Many parents and coaches will avoid booking with a hotel that is within a short walking distance and direct sight of a recreational marijuana store and grow facility.”
The hotel, at 1129 Summit Blvd. in Frisco, protested Summit Marijuana’s proposed move to the Frisco Town Council in January. At that meeting, Frisco Mayor Gary Wilkinson shut down the hotel’s complaint by saying, “Believe me, I coached ski racing for a long time, and if you can find a ski racer that doesn’t smoke pot, I’ll give you $100,” according to a Summit Daily report.
The Reilly family in Pueblo County and the owner of the Holiday Inn are members of Safe Streets, according to the suits. Safe Streets’ attorney Thompson says the two suits have “a single unifying theme: Dealing in recreational marijuana is a serious felony under federal law, and the state of Colorado is powerless to change that fact.”
Legalization advocate Mason Tvert was at Thursday’s news conference, and he said the lawsuit can’t stop Colorado from decriminalizing marijuana.
“Ultimately, the goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that Colorado is not controlling marijuana,” said Tvert, who noted that the suits only challenge the ability to regulate marijuana stores. “This is a lawsuit that will only benefit criminals and cartels … These are Just Say No-era drug warriors, and they just need to get over it.”
By including Hickenlooper and the other state officials, the plaintiffs claim they “are facilitating and encouraging Colorado’s recreational marijuana trade, including the racketeering activity that is injuring their property, through a licensing regime that purports to authorize federal drug crimes,” according to the lawsuits.
For a federal racketeering lawsuit filed by a individual to succeed, “you have to show that your business or property interest were harmed by a corrupt organization,” said DU law professor Kamin, who added that harm has to be real and quantifiable, and they’ll have to show that it stems directly from the defendants’ conduct.
“Displeasure is not good enough,” Kamin said.
The Reillys’ lawsuit claims that, “Marijuana businesses make bad neighbors. They emit pungent, foul odors, attract undesirable visitors, increase criminal activity, increase traffic and drive down property values.”
Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bruvs
Denver Post staff reporter John Ingold contributed to this report.