Will Pot + RICO Challenge State’s Federalist Trend?

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in 2015. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in 2015. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Writing in The Washington Post, legal commentator Jonathan H. Adler outlines both the context and challenges facing “legal” marijuana now that a law targeting gangsters is being used for civil resistance to state pot reforms. We’ve reported before that the federal 10th Circuit court has taken a stand and it’s significant.
 
Adler outlines the federal context, including how the U.S. Congress has linked marijuana to funding legislation, before going into the looming challenges.
 
He notes that “… a bigger potential threat [to state legalization efforts] comes from the fact that marijuana possession and distribution are predicate offenses under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). This means that those who produce or sell marijuana are potentially subject to civil RICO suits, whether or not such activities are legal under state law. So held the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit earlier this year. A federal judge once described RICO as “the monster that ate jurisprudence.” Barring real reform at the federal level, it could be the monster that ate marijuana federalism, too. Here again, an appropriations rider is insufficient.

 
Adler is arguing that the RICO use is a threat to the “federalism” model for state control. 
 
Opinion | Will marijuana make federalism go up in smoke?

Legal Pot Might Be Sued Out of Business

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is raising eyebrows in the legal marijuana industry and the Denver weekly newspaper Westword warns that the litigation “… is based on federal racketeering laws, that anti-marijuana forces hope will help them destroy the marijuana industry here and throughout the country.”
At issue is an argument that a Colorado pot-growing operation damages neighboring property owners — they say their horse-riding experience is diminished by the smell from marijuana and other concerns, including construction. In its decision, the 10th Circuit effectively found that the plaintiffs’ use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute had merit because the adjacent property violates federal laws against marijuana, which is specifically mentioned in the RICO laws.
Westwood breaks it down: “This ruling could be game-changing. If the Reillys and Safe Streets Alliance succeed, other individuals or groups would be able to file complaints against marijuana businesses using RICO on a scale so massive that the entire industry could sink under the weight of litigation — or so opponents hope.”
Read the story here:
How Bizarre Pot Smell Ruling Could Destroy Colorado’s Marijuana Industry

VICE: Pot History Made, Patent Granted For Plants, Litigation Sure To Follow

A marijuana grow operation in Colorado. (Photo via Pixabay)

A marijuana grow operation in Colorado. (Photo via Pixabay)

VICE has a deep-dive story about a history-making patent, granted last fall, for a very specific marijuana plant and its resulting THC content. It’s the first of its kind, but experts predict it represents a first step toward litigation. Says VICE: “… Patent No. 9095554 may be the opening salvo in a new series of legal battles over innovations in marijuana breeding [and] the prize could be nothing less than the commanding heights of an industry that’s projected to soon top $40 billion, with the exclusive rights to produce, sell, or license designer varieties of pot. Over the next few years, the contest could take the form of a gold rush for patents.

The excellent report includes comments from Reggie Gaudino, a Ph.D. in molecular genetics who works as director of intellectual property for Steep Hill Labs, a US firm that analyzes medical and recreational marijuana for compliance with public safety standards, who explains that “… a well-written patent is like a declaration of war — you write a patent in a way that covers those who can sue you, and those you can sue.”

And there’s this: Many small pot farmers are more scared of corporate competition than they are of criminal prosecution, according to Hilary Bricken, a Seattle lawyer who chairs the Canna Law Group of the firm Harris Moure, which supports marijuana businesses. “These people aren’t worried about the Department of Justice anymore,” said Bricken, who has represented cannabis enterprises in commercial litigation and has consulted on intellectual property issues. “Now they’re worried about Monsanto.”

As usual, VICE is a step ahead of most everyone else. Read the report here: A Patent for Cannabis Plants Is Already a Reality — and More Are Expected to Follow | VICE News