'Conspiracy' suits might be legal threat for pot businesses
DENVER (AP) — Another legal threat for marijuana businesses across the United States has emerged over the past few months: civil suits involving anti-racketeering laws.
One such case — a nearly 3-year-old lawsuit in Colorado — is scheduled to go to trial in Denver in July.
Two similar suits have been filed against licensed MJ companies and numerous other defendants in Oregon and Massachusetts.
All three lawsuits allege that the licensed companies are in violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.
The suits also name “co-conspirators” — simply put, other entities that played some role in helping the plaintiffs operate their businesses.
The litigation threat came to light last June, when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued a ruling that gave legal legitimacy to some of the racketeering claims made by a Colorado couple who alleged they were being harmed by a licensed marijuana grower’s operation.
The ramifications of the ruling could be the first of many expensive legal fights for cannabis businesses.
For now, the ruling allows a civil RICO lawsuit to proceed against three licensed marijuana companies and three individuals in Colorado.
The upshot? A married couple in Colorado who own land adjacent to a licensed MJ grow stand to win damages upwards of six or seven figures because of the RICO violations.
The bigger picture: “This is an existential threat to the industry,” said Brian Barnes, an attorney with Cooper & Kirk, a Washington DC-based law firm that filed the original lawsuit against the Colorado businesses back in 2015.
His assertion is based on “the scope of