Courts Say Neighbors Can Sue Pot Farms Over Smells

A court ruling has made it possible for neighboring residents to sue marijuana grow operations. Smells and unwanted visitors now fall under the RICO L...

Marijuana growers have had it hard throughout the years, but a recent court ruling seeks to make it even more difficult for pot warehouses and farms. A contentious dispute between a Colorado medical marijuana grow and their next door neighbors led to the court’s decision in early June. According to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, neighbors of a legal marijuana grow may sue that grow due to smells and other nuisances that might decrease their property value.

How It Happened

The Reillys are the owners of a Colorado based horse farm, located next to a cannabis growhouse. Back in 2015, the Reillys decided to sue with claims that the marijuana warehouse would lessen the value of their land. Emission of “noxious odors” from the facility and the type of distasteful visitors it would bring were given as motives for the suit. At first the Reillys’ claim was dismissed, but they appealed in 2016. On June 7, a three-judge appeals panel unanimously decided the Reillys’ have a case. The horse farm owners were not  allowed to sue in efforts to force Colorado state to enforce federal drug laws. They also cannot claim pot warehouse wasn’t allowed to operate to begin with. Basically, the Reillys’ have to prove direct harm to their property on those terms.

The point to note about this case is the legal footing of the horse farm owners. A 1970 federal law meant for organized crime supposedly applies in this case.

Called the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Law, the horse farm owners believe they legally have the right to collect grievances from the pot warehouse despite state law making the warehouse legal.

What This Case Means for the Industry

In states where the distribution of marijuana is legal, the ability to sue the state or the farm itself is dangerous for the industry. RICO has the potential to give the average marijuana-opposing citizen power to damage the industry.

This attempt in Colorado is the only one so far. The legal clearance from the court increases the chances for more suits to happen in states with medical programs.

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