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

RICO Lawsuits Shape Legal Marijuana Landscape

A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, July 25, 2012. Photo Credit, International Business Times report, 3/25/16

A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, July 25, 2012. Photo Credit, International Business Times report, 3/25/16

It’s not exactly news that litigation can have serious impact even if it gets dismissed or dropped. And the International Business Times has a truly cautionary tale out of Colorado. The story is about how recent court victories set net legal milestones but the legal marijuana industry has a long way to go.

Part of the story details how one man lost his business in litigation that never even made it to the discovery phase. The marijuana dispensary owner was doing well, says the IBT, but “… when he made arrangements in 2015 to move to a nearby location and expand his operation to include recreational marijuana sales, the Holiday Inn located next door to the new spot pre-emptively sued Olson as well as the owner of the property he was going to occupy, his bank, his bonding firm, his accounting company and others associated with his business, alleging the marijuana shop would be a detriment to the hotel’s business. The affiliated companies were eventually dropped from the suit once they either severed ties with Olson or reached cash settlements with the hotel. As part of its deal with the landowner, the Holiday Inn purchased the property Olson was going to use. In November, with only Olson left as a defendant, Holiday Inn dropped its lawsuit before the case reached discovery. By that point, Olson, who said he heard a doughnut shop and housing were going to be built on the site, no longer had a dispensary. The lease on his old location had expired and, inundated with legal fees, he couldn’t afford to relaunch his business elsewhere.”

Read the excellent report here:

Marijuana Legalization Movement Just Won Multiple Courtroom Battles, But Will That Be Enough to Quash Future Legal Threats?

Supreme Court Backs Colorado, Nixes Neighboring State’s Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court this week handed pro-marijuana states a 6-2 victory against litigation from neighboring non-marijuana states. Nebraska and Oklahoma argued that Colorado’s law violates the federal Controlled Substances Act, which treats marijuana as a dangerous drug and forbids its sale or use. They urged the Supreme Court to take up the issue as an “original” matter and declare that Colorado’s law was preempted by the federal drug laws.

The Los Angeles Times explains that “… usually, the high court hears appeals from lower-court rulings. But on rare occasions, the justices are called upon to decide disputes between states. Typically, however, these ‘original’ suits involve disagreements over boundaries or the use of river water that flows from one state to another.

The Times also noted that “… the suit brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma also implicitly challenged the Obama administration for its refusal to intervene more directly in Colorado.
Since California’s voters in 1996 authorized medical use of marijuana, 22 other states have adopted similar measures. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska went further and allowed for the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use.”

“The state of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014,” the states argued. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”

Read the Times report here:
Supreme Court rejects challenge to Colorado marijuana law from other states

CCM Publisher in HuffPo: 2016 Civil Courts Issues ‘Hung Over’ From 2015

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

CCM publisher, Sara Warner, looks back on her 2015 predictions about the top civil justice issues and highlights several issues to watch in 2016. Marijuana legalization, CSST piping, and litigation against police make the 2016 list. Civil justice issues hung over from 2015 are asbestos litigation and immigration. Read it in her latest Huffington Post blog post.

First Marijuana RICO Case, Colorado Hotel Claims Lost Business in Civil Suit

Civil lawsuits continue to muddy the waters in states that have legalized marijuana, with a new Colorado case asserting that selling weed nearby has hurt business at a Holiday Inn. The Summit Daily News is reporting that “… nearly three months after two heartland states sued Colorado in federal court, a Frisco dispensary is now at the epicenter of the first-ever racketeering lawsuit filed against a marijuana business since the advent of legal weed.
 
On Thursday, the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Safe Streets Alliance named Medical Marijuana of the Rockies as one of 12 defendants in a federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case.”
 
The newspaper said that “… Safe Streets sponsored the lawsuit in partnership with co-plaintiff New Vision Hotels, the Colorado Springs company that owns the Frisco Holiday Inn. Frisco is a tourist-intensive mountain town just west of Denver.
 
Also from the SDN: “This is really the only course of action left for the hotel,” said Brian Barnes, the plaintiffs’ spokesman and one of several attorneys working the case. “They weren’t sure of other options available to them, and the reality is that when people talk about marijuana being legal in Colorado, it is still illegal in the United States and selling marijuana is against the law. They have a legal right to not be injured by that activity.”
 
The Holiday Inn managers had previously asked the Frisco Town Council to deny the license to the marijuana merchants who wanted to operate about 75 yards from the hotel entrance. The SDN reported that “… hotel representatives argued that a prospective marijuana dispensary has already harmed business, citing cancellations from several youth ski teams after the town council debates made national news.”
 
Read the story here.